Displaying items by tag: Howth Yacht Club
Ireland’s proposal was made at the 2019 World Council Meeting in Miami on 28 October 2019 and voted on by the European NJCA’s with the announcement made this week.
The Irish J/24 Fleet and Howth Yacht Club will rekindle a previously successful partnership which saw the North Dublin club host both the J/24 Europeans in 2011 and J24 World Championships in 2013 that Afloat's W M Nixon reviewed here.
Irish J24 Class President Mark Usher said: "The Irish J24 fleet is once again indebted to Howth Yacht Club. We are fortunate to have a club with their experience, expertise, facilities and infrastructure as our host club. I would like to recognise those who led the bid, Commodore Ian Byrne, Vice-Commodore Paddy Judge and Neil Murphy who were assisted by Flor O’Driscoll. We look forward to working with Howth Yacht Club to organise and deliver a top-class event both on and off the water.”
HYC Commodore Ian Byrne welcomed the news and said "Howth Yacht Club is delighted that our proposal to host the 2021 J/24 European Championships has been successful. Our continued support of the Irish J/24 Class and our team's previous success running national and international championships was instrumental in bringing this major European regatta to Fingal County. We will now set to work to provide world-class racing in our stunning setting and make the event memorable with our Howth hospitality ashore."
The Irish J24 Fleet is undergoing a period of significant growth demonstrated by 32 boats entering the recent Irish National Championships at Lough Erne Yacht Club.
The growth has been accelerated by a commitment to an Under 25 development programme which has been supported by Irish Sailing, Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) and West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association (WIORA) who have both provided grants to clubs for development of Under 25 teams.
In previous years, the hosting of international events has acted as a catalyst for new entries to the Irish fleet seeking to challenge themselves against top-class international competition.
Back in 1991 when the world seemed a much simpler place, a three-crew Irish team - using shrewdly-selected offshore racing boats chartered in Australia - took part in the then-popular International Southern Cross Series, which was built around a programme of inshore and offshore races of varying length culminating in the 630-mile Sydney-Hobart Race itself.
Australian ex-Pat John Storey (he was born in Meath) was at the heart of it with his own Farr 43 Atara, where his skipper and the Team Captain was Harold Cudmore. In fact, Cork provided much of the muscle, as the late Joe English skippered the “small boat”, the David 36 Extension – a former Sydney-Hobart overall winner - while the mid-sized team member was known as “the Howth boat”, as her crew was built around Kieran Jameson and Gordon Maguire.
The boat herself was the Davidson 40 Beyond Thunderdome, a name expressive of way-out Australian culture at the time – think Mad Max when Mel Gibson was in his popular prime – and the very fact of having an Irish team in the Southern Cross challenge on the other side of the world also caught the mood of the moment, for back home the economy was starting to get a move on after the glacially sluggish 1980s.
And the Irish Southern Cross team certainly got a move on. They were leading, with Gordon Maguire in particular at the helm of Beyond Thunderdome on top form. But then in a windward slugging match in the final pre-Hobart Race inshore event, an Australian boat on port collided with them, dismasting Thunderdome so totally that her series was over.
Yet victory was pulled from the wreckage. Gordon Maguire was immediately transferred to Atara to be top helm under Harry Cudmore’s command for the race to Hobart. As for Beyond Thunderdome, eventually she got complete points redress for the crash and for missing the race to Hobart. And meanwhile, Atara won the Sydney-Hobart race overall to make sure that Ireland won the 1991 Southern Cross Series.
It was all a life-changing experience for Gordon Maguire. The young Howth sailor – already a multiple champion at home – was soon swept up into the vibrant Australian sailing scene, such that while he has achieved success all over the world – including several Whitbread/Volvo Race victories – Australia is now his home, and he is best known for further top performances in many majors including more Hobart success with his overall wins currently totalling three.
But he has maintained his strong family links with Howth where his father Neville – a champion sailor now in his sprightly nineties – continues to be an active member. Thus twenty-one months ago in February 2018 with two Howth-crewed boats racing in the RORC Caribbean 600 from Antigua when Gordon Maguire turned up with his top lieutenants to race an American Maxi 72, there was something of a club reunion.
Much came out of that Caribbean 600 campaign after the Howth YC squad had secured a first in one class (for “Sailor of the Year” Conor Fogerty with his Sunfast 3600 Bam) and second in another (with the Lombard 46 Pata Negra chartered by Michael Wright for a programme managed by Kieran Jameson).
But what didn’t emerge was a 2019 campaign to return to Antigua, for the Wright team had set their sights on the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race starting on December 26th 2019, and Kieran Jameson was set the task of securing a suitable boat in Australia.
It says everything about Kieran Jameson’s enduring enthusiasm for offshore racing that, 28 years after organising the Beyond Thunderdome campaign, his zest for it all is undiminished despite the fact that the charter market in the countdown to the 2019 Hobart race has been much more challenging.
Researching for a suitable boat was well under way by September 2018, but after years of the annual classic seeing entry levels hovering around the hundred mark and sometimes not even rising to that figure, 2019 is the 75th Anniversary. Entries have shot up to the 160 mark. And the greatest increase is in the 35 to 45ft size - precisely the range Jameson was targeting.
There were sleepless nights in trying to close a deal on a First 40, the Howth team’s ideal target. For although the marque has been in Australia for ten years now after making a mighty debut by taking first and second overall in the 2009 race, like their predecessor the First 40.7 they’ve proven to be continually competitive, and in size terms they’re a very manageable proposition for a team coming from the other side of the world, and the Howth team have been campaigning chartered First 40s in major race – with silverware to show for it - since 2014.
Fortunately through EastSail, the Australian charter mega-agency, they linked up with the First 40 Breakthrough, originally called Chancellor, which acquired her current name when she came under the ownership of medical research professors Matthew Vadas and Jonathan Stone, who had recently made a significant shared discovery in their field of research.
In the 2014 Rolex Sydney-Hobart, she was raced under the command of Matthew Vadas, but a strong Irish link was established as the sailing master was noted Malta-based offshore racing talent Barry Hurley (originally of Cobh) sailing his fourth Hobart challenge. He, in turn, had recruited Dun Laoghaire’s Kenneth Rumball (on his third RSHR) and his brother Alexander together with Catherine Halpin, and for a while, they were right in contention for the overall prize.
But the eventual winner, the Farr 43 Wild Rose (Roger Hickman), somehow got away from them down at Bass Strait, and while Breakthrough finished with a praiseworthy 12th overall, Hurley – who in November 2014 had taken a first in class in the Middle Sea Race – felt it was something of a missed opportunity.
These days, the two professors no longer contemplate doing the decidedly rugged race to Hobart personally. But they like the boat so much they’ve kept her on for personal cruising and less demanding races in the Sydney area, and it seems they were ready to be persuaded that a crew from Howth would be acceptable to take Breakthrough – re-named HYC Breakthrough for the duration - on a bareboat basis for the 75th Anniversary RSHR 2019.
But getting the boat in place is only the beginning of it. In today’s fast-moving world, people who felt sure they’d be available on the date to go to Australia find personal circumstances suddenly changing, and Kieran Jameson has found himself sorting and re-sorting a personnel roster which has only been completely finalized this week.
Heading the list is Darren Wright, current Irish Half Ton Champion with Mata, while Kieran Jameson fulfills the role – as required by the RSHR – of Sailing Master. Colm Bermingham and Rick de Neve (a co-owner of Mata) are listed as navigators, while Simon Knowles - in addition to other roles – is on the strength as tactician. The rest of the crew are Johnny White, Luke Malcolm, Emmet Sheridan and David Wright, and while they’re all proven sailors in Irish waters, although the boat has already been passed as fit for the big race by the regulators, the crew will have to put in 24 hours together sailing hard at sea on HYC Breakthrough as soon as they’ve all assembled in Sydney.
Because of the significant increase in fleet numbers over the usual RSHR turnout, demands on waterfront facilities and services are at a premium, but a high priority has been put on getting the sail wardrobe sorted, using the services of UK Sailmakers and Ian Short sails in Sydney.
And the fleet increase does mean that there will be much improved boat-for-boat racing featuring in the Hobart campaign, so Breakthrough will find herself being kept up to speed by the presence of five First 40s and seven comparably-rated Sydney 38s. Regardless of the overall picture, they’ll have the extra interest of a race-within-a-race.
Nevertheless, the feeling of very extended lines of communication is sensed as you realize that the entire crew is making the journey from Ireland. But a marker has already been put down by 28-year-old Luke Malcolm – a product of the HYC & ICRA Under 25 scheme who is now a full-time sailor – going out ahead two weeks early to start sorting the boat, and last week he sensibly sent back a basic but very real photo of Breakthrough just to reassure everyone that their boat for the big race was ready and waiting exclusively for them.
In Sydney, he soon linked up with Shane Diviney with whom he used to campaign a Fireball on the European circuit, who likewise has gone professional, and for the RSHR is aboard the Australian Judel Vrolik 62 Chinese Whisper (David Griffith) which has further Irish interest as the navigator is Offaly-born Adrienne Cahalan doing her 28th race to Hobart.
There’s continuing Irish interest through the super-maxi Comanche whose owner Jim Cooney proudly proclaims his Meath connections (Ballivor to be precise) while from an international point of view Comanche’s credentials are further reinforced by having “The Navigator’s Navigator”, Stan Honey of California, on board to call the shots.
As for Gordon Maguire, he is of course well immersed in finalizing RSHR preparations with Matt Allen’s turbo-powered TP 52 Ichi Ban. But on a visit back to Howth in the Autumn, he’d a brainstorming session with the HYC Breakthrough team, and while his every word of advice was pure gold, the most cheering thing they were told was that the hard men of Ichi Ban wouldn’t dream of keeping themselves at peak performance with anything as crude as freeze-dried food. Thus when HYC Breakthrough get their shore management set up, Gordon will see that they’re guided with the proper introductions to the secret source of Ichi Ban’s magic victuals.
This vital shore management side will be looked after by Ian and Judith Malcolm, the parents of Luke, who are taking time out from the countdown to the Fireball Worlds 2020 in Howth to ensure that the HYC Breakthrough squad are protected as far as possible from the inevitable hassle which a long-distance management operation like this inevitably involves.
Because as with any great endeavour, no matter how careful and detailed you are in your planning, events will inevitably conspire to knock things astray. In all those years in which the organising Cruising Yacht Club of Australia realized they were in the countdown to the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart race, and in all the many months – running into well over a year – through which the increasingly determined HYC Breakthrough team were pulling all their threads together, who on earth would have thought that as the start time approached for the Races of Races, the city of Sydney - with its unrivalled natural harbour the perfect arena for the start of a classic sailing event – would find itself under increasing threat from raging bush fires?
Everyone is continuing with their plans, and when they staged a very special regatta last weekend for classics which had taken part in the Sydney-Hobart race before 1976, the wind obligingly was nor’easterly and the harbour was looking more like itself.
It was a wonderful occasion, for with every passing year Australia is becoming more of a world leader in the preservation of great classic boats. And when we realize that the attendance at last weekend’s event included such legends as Jim Hardy (87) and the immortal Gordon Ingate, full of beans at 93 and invigorated by being back on board the superbly-restored Caprice of Huon which he raced with such style during the 1960s, it gives us yet another excuse to use that classic Cowes Week photo from 1965.
It shows Caprice slicing through the crowded water accompanied by a launch filled with admiring RYS alickadoos, beating towards the finish line and an overall win in the Britannia Cup at a time when the boat was already 17 years old - and she’d been built in 1948 to a Robert Clark design which was basically pre-World War II in its origins.
But then on Tuesday as the final countdown continued with the day allocated to the Grinders Coffee SOLAS Big Boat Challenge – traditionally a superb in-harbour spectacle involving legendary maxis – the wind has swung to the northwest, the smoke rolled over and the air became almost unbreathable while visibility was at times down to 0.1 nautical miles, so though an attempt was made at racing, it had to be abandoned.
It may seem utterly trivial to be concerned about smoke-impaired visibility for the start of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race on December 26th when so many people’s very existence and way of life and property is under the bush fire threat. But as the recent typhoon-plagued Rugby World Cup in Japan reminded us, life is going to go on regardless unless circumstances conspire the wipe out the entire human race, in which case no-one will be bothered either way.
So for those who find contemplation of the classic dash to Hobart a refreshing change from the suffocation of the Festive Season, the word is that the defending champion for the overall win is a Tasmanian boat, Philip Turner’s canting keel Reichel Pugh 65 Alive, while the line honours win is being defended – not for the first time – by the Oatley family’s frequently-altered Super Maxi Wild Oats XI skippered by Mark Richards.
After the perfect weather of the sunlit two-race programme on Saturday, October 12th in the Beshoff Motor Autumn League in Howth, there were those who suggested the series should have been declared finished there and then, as it just couldn’t get any better as far as idyllic conditions were concerned, and didn’t they have seven good races already in the bag, with a handful of boats in the 18 racing categories already secure in a place in the Winners’ Enclosure?
How right they were…..For last Saturday’s final day, a particularly unpleasant low-pressure area, which was going to bring both calm and gales and lots of rain and poor visibility, squatted down in potentially deepening mode over the western Irish Sea. And as the Day 6 start time had been deferred to allow the sailors to watch the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, while Ireland’s chances faded in Tokyo, the wind had time to strengthen.
By the full-time whistle, a cold and rising northerly had built an angry-looking sea and it was raining heavily with the forecast emphasising the volatility of expected conditions. When the N over A was displayed at the Clubhouse, even those with aspirations of a good final race bringing them up the results table were muted about their disappointment at not going afloat to get cold and wet as they returned to the comfort of the warm bar to resume their analysis of that quarter-final.
At the well-attended prizegiving, Commodore Ian Byrne thanked the competitors, the race management and particularly the sponsors, Beshoff Motors, for making the 2019 Autumn League a resounding success before Jeremy Beshoff distributed the prizes. Results here
Trick or Treat, the Puppeteer 22 of Alan Pearson and Alan Blay, was crowned the overall winner of the event and thereby retained their 2018 title, a noteworthy achievement for a boat racing in the Class with the biggest entry – clearly the imminent arrival of Hallowe’en has something to do with it. In seven races they were only once outside the top two places despite the variety of conditions experienced.
The winner of the team prize was the ‘Harlequin Bites Isobel’ combo composed of a Howth 17 (Isobel – Brian & Conor Turvey), Puppeteer 22 Harlequin (David Clarke), and Cruiser 4 Bite the Bullet (Colm Bermingham). Their individual consistency within their respective Classes left the opposing teams struggling in their collective wakes.
The conclusion of the Autumn League leaves only the long-running HYC Brass Monkeys keelboat series and the even-longer running Laser Frostbites – first race Nov 3rd - to complete before 2019 is put to bed and the new one arrives.
The 2020 keelboat season at Howth YC will kick off with the Spring Warmers in April and then lead on quickly to the WAVE Regatta over the weekend of May 29th – 31st. WAVE promises to build on the fantastic success of the 2018 event and plans are already well advanced for what promises to be the ‘must do’ regatta of the 2020 season.
Day Five of the Beshoff Motors Autumn League at Howth Yacht Club on Saturday saw races six and seven completed, but even with a race still to go, with no further discards, some of the class leaders have already secured their passes to the Winner's Enclosure.
The two Windward-Leeward races were sailed in pet conditions, with the sun beaming down and a mild 7-11 knot south-westerly breeze, oscillating in a way that challenged the sailors’ mental dexterity in anticipating where it might next come from, rather than testing their stamina.
The circumstances could not have been more different from an experience which had been commemorated in HYC the previous day. Veterans of the 18 Irish boats which survived the Fastnet Storm of 1979 had gathered to meet again for lunch forty years later, and personally thank Commodore John Kavanagh of the Irish Naval Service, Kieran Cotter of the Baltimore Lifeboat, and Gerard Butler, Lighthouse Keeper on the Fastnet Rock, for all that they and their colleagues had done to help four decades ago. It brought back vivid memories of the sea in a very different mood from Saturday’s idyllic conditions, but that’s how it is with sailing.
In the Autumn League, Classes where the podium top spot is already secured include Class 4: Tiger (Stephen Harris & Frank Hughes HYC) on IRC and Raging Bull (M & S Davis, Skerries SC) on ECHO; Class 5: Demelza (Steffi Ennis & Windsor Laudan HYC) on IRC and Voyager (Joe Carton) on ECHO; Howth 17s: Rita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch) on scratch, and Zaida (Tom Houlihan) on handicap; Squibs: O’Leary (Simon Sheahan) on scratch; J80s: Jammy (Dan O’Grady) for both scratch and handicap; Puppeteers: Trick or Treat (Alan Pearson & Alan Blay) on scratch.
Day 6 will feature a single race to determine the other final placings to bring the main sailing programme of 2019 to a conclusion, and in some classes it’s so close that the series will end on a high to be matched by a Carnival prizegiving with entertainment in the style of last year’s successful Wave Regatta, while for those who can’t give up their sailing completely, the annual Laser Frostbite Series – a Howth feature since 1974 – gets going on November 3rd.
In the Howth 17s on Saturday, Zaida (Tom Houlihan) added another two wins on handicap while Rita (Lynch / Curley) did likewise on scratch to consolidate their leads in both divisions. Absolutely Fabulous (M Flaherty) lived up to its name with two firsts on handicap in the Squibs and Fantome (Ronan McDonnell) and O’Leary (S Sheahan) took a win each in the scratch fleet, moving Fantome up to second overall behind O’Leary.
In the Puppeteer 22s, Gold Dust (Walls/Browne) took their first win in Race 6, but it was Trick or Treat (Pearson / Blay) back on top in Race 7 to ensure an overall victory. On handicap, Odyssey (P&R Byrne) has found its groove and added a pair of wins to its earlier success, but Flycatcher (M Dunne) remains in the lead with a comfortable but not invincible margin over their challengers.
Jammy (Dan O’Grady) dominates the J80 Class on both scratch and handicap, winning both races in both categories on the day and thereby securing overall success in both series. Red Cloud (Nobby Reilly) holds second overall from Jeannie (Robert Dix) on both scratch and handicap.
In the White Sails, Bite the Bullet (Colm Bermingham) took first on IRC in both races of Class 4 to move up to second overall, behind Tiger helmed by Stephen Harris, who has already secured the series win. On ECHO, Spellbound (Burrows/Skeffington) won race 6, whilst the Spirit 54 Soufriere (Stephen O’Flaherty) added a win in Race 7 to her unchallenged lead in the ‘Most Elegant Boat of the Series Award’ (if there was one). The consistency of The Sigma 400 Raging Bull (M & S Davis) sees them far enough ahead on the ECHO points table to be uncatchable.
In Class 5, Demelza (Laudan / Ennis) took another two wins to give them the IRC victory in the series and added an ECHO first in Race 6 to their trove while C’Est La Vie ((Flannelly / Spain / Staines) took race 7. White Sails stalwart Voyager (Joe Carton) has sailed a consistent series to ensure that the trophy winner for the 2019 series is already determined.
In the IRC spinnaker classes, the J/109s returned from their visit to the J/109 Nationals at Dun Laoghaire the previous weekend, and Storm (Pat Kelly - runner-up in Dun Laoghaire)) and Outrajeous (Colwell/Murphy) got back to battling for the lead of Class 1, each taking a race win on IRC and ECHO to leave Storm ahead of Outrajeous in both divisions, by two points on IRC and one on ECHO.
In Class 3 IRC a three-way battle is underway between Alliance II (V Gaffney), Insider (S&D Mullaney) and Viking (Patterson/ Darmody), currently lying in that order with three points spanning them. Insider took race 6 while Animal (G. O’Sullivan) won race 7 with Viking’s DSQ result providing a setback to the campaign for an overall IRC win. On ECHO, the wins on the day were taken by Insider and Animal, but the X302 Viking retains the overall lead.
The twelve boat Class 2 fleet continues to feature two mini competitions. Half Tonners are dominating on IRC with the Checkmates of Nigel Biggs (XVIII) and Dave Cullen (XV) never far apart on the results sheets, each taking a win on Day 5 to leave XVIII with a two point lead over XV and both comfortably clear of The Big Picture (M&R Evans) and Harmony (J. Swan). The X302s are hogging the top spots on ECHO but the lighter conditions of Day 5 allowed the Half Tonner contingent some solace with Checkmates XVIII and XV each getting a win. However the ECHO leaderboard shows the X302s of Dux (A. Gore Grimes) ahead of No Excuse (Wormald/Walsh /O’Neill) with Maximus (P. Kyne) in third.
Detailed results here
Gordon Maguire (58) may now be recognised as Australia’s leading all-round professional offshore/inshore keelboat skipper - his World Sailing Code Number is unmistakably GMA#1 writes W M Nixon. But somewhere in there is the exceptionally talented sailor, son of renowned all-round winner Neville Maguire, who cut his racing teeth in Howth and the Irish Sea.
It was in 1991 that he was first was introduced to Australia, when he and Kieran Jameson organised “the Howth boat” for the three-boat Irish Southern Cross Team with the charter of the 40ft Beyond Thunderdome in Sydney. Beyond Thunderdome was putting in a superb performance in the early contests, but then she was dismasted in a collision (the other boat was adjudicated at fault) in the final inshore race before the series culminated in the Sydney-Hobart.
While Thunderdome was given total redress, there was no way she was going to race to Hobart. But in some pretty ruthless crew re-allocation, Team Captain Harold Cudmore dropped one of his people from John Storey’s 43ft Atara for the Hobart challenge, and took Maguire on board.
Cudmore and Maguire….It looked like the Dream Team. And it was the Dream Team. They won the Sydney-Hobart race overall, Ireland won the Southern Cross Trophy, and Gordon Maguire began a love affair with Australian sailing which eventually saw him taking out citizenship, though his career afloat had taken him all over the world in many boats, including participation in something like five Volvo Ocean Races with success at one extreme, and showing people how to go down the mine good and proper with Lough Derg YC’s Jocelyn Waller on the BH 41 Silk in a Solent gale-force squall during Cowes Week at the other.
In Australia he has become involved in the campaigning of such stellar owner-skippers as the successful Stephen Ainsworth of Loki (Hobart Race overall win 2011) and more recently that extraordinary bundle of energy Matt Allen, whose boats called Ichi Ban (Japanese for Number One) have been so numerous that on occasion there have been two Ichi Bans of different sizes on the entry list for the Rolex Sydney-Hobart, with the decision on which to take being made as late as possible.
With his engineer’s training and incredible natural sailing skill, plus the fact that he was reared in a household where his father was always innovating something, Gordon Maguire has provided the prefect mind-set to match Allen’s restless experimentation, but in recent years they’ve focused increasingly on a boat which, by the standards of the fleet with which she sails, is multi-purpose.
The resulting Botin 52 Ichi Ban has so successfully encompassed the requirements off the most rugged offshore racing with a configuration which can be reasonably quickly modified to give peak performance in a regatta series with a more inshore orientation. It has meant that during the past year her results list has been truly stellar, such that she has been short-listed down to the final three in World Sailing’s 2019 Goslings Boat of the Year Award.
This ambitious global contest was introduced as recently as last year, when the 2018 winner was Niklas Zennstrom’s latest boat, the Carkeek-designed Ran VII which brought so many ideas with success to the Fast 40+ circuit that it will take time – years, indeed – for the best of them to percolate through to the wider sailing scene.
Unfortunately the fact that Ran VII won last year will militate against Ichi Ban’s chances of success in 2019, as they cover broadly the same area of high end IRC racing, and Ichi Ban is up against two very different boats, the F50 high-performance catamaran which is aimed at sailing as a high-drama spectator sport, and the new Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300, which is aimed at the affordable end of offshore racing.
The Sun Fast 3300 is in some ways a scaled-up Mini Transat Boat, and the prototype made a successful debut by coming second in the two-handed division in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, beaten only by the formidable Jean-Pierre Kelbert with his new JPK 10.30 Leon, a boat which probably costs very much more then the target figure for the Sun Fast 3300.
Thus in the way of these annual competitions, the odds are against the “Gordon Maguire Boat” getting the nod at the 2019 World Sailing Conference in Bermuda on October 29th. But nevertheless we very much hope she will, and if she doesn’t, then we’re all for the interesting Sun Fast 3300.
Whatever way it turns out, the next stage in the process is the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2019 on December 26th, when the Sun Fast 3300 will be making her Southern Hemisphere debut against a fleet which will, of course, include Ichi Ban. Meanwhile, before you look at the circus photos below, take a thoughtful read of this interview from 2010 which continues to be valid for explaining why Gordon Maguire holds such a special place in world sailing:
“If the wind holds up you can live with the rain” was one stoical comment after Saturday’s increasingly brisk fifth contest in the Beshoff Motors Howth Autumn League on Saturday afternoon. But there was no escaping the fact that by the time sailing was completed with most classes pushing towards a nice regatta-length two-hour race under their belts, it was getting very fresh indeed, and the rain was starting to be serious.
That said, the sailing had started in gentle enough rain-free conditions, albeit with visibility distinctly less than crystal clear. But for some classes, it was pushing towards the upper limit of their full sail racing power by the conclusion. And as for the rain, it was only getting started – west coast folk who are fed up with hearing how rain-free is the east coast will be delighted to learn that the Leinster seaboard experienced a good old-fashioned drain-blocking downpour on Saturday evening.
But by that time the racing was well finished, with the results in one class in particular reflecting the rising wind. IRC 2 has hitherto been dominated by the fancy flyers of the Classic Half Ton group in Howth. But on Saturday as the wind went up and up, the Gore-Grimes family and friends in that seasoned warrior, the X302 Dux, just got better and better, and they won with by 55 seconds from Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV, with another X302 – the Bourke/McGirr/Ball team’s Xebec - coming third, while the series overall leader, Nigel Biggs half Tonner Checkmate XVIII, had to be content with 6th.
In IRC1, it was Hamlet without the Princes, as the two Howth J/109s were absent at the J/109s Nationals in Dublin Bay at the RIYC. But at least that expedition went okay with Pat Kelly’s Storm of Rush and Howth lying second overall after the first day’s racing. However, it meant that back in Howth it was all clear ahead for Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 (RIYC) to register a useful win, making next Saturday’s prospects – with the schedule for two windward-leewards – even more interesting.
IRC 3 saw the much-modified Bolero Viking (Patterson/Darmody) enjoy the rising breeze to get the win by almost two minutes from Vincent Gaffney’s Laser 28 Alliance II with Ger O’Sullivan’s Formula 28 Animal third, while in the White Sails, IRC 4 saw Stephen Harris helm the First 40.7 Tiger to her accustomed win, this time with Dermot Skehan’s MG 34 Toughnut second and last week’s winner, the Sigma 400 Raging Bull from Skerries (M & S Davis) taking third. IRC 5 meanwhile saw Windsor and Steffi in Demelza (Club Shamrock) get the win again from Joe Carton’s Dehler 34 Voyager, this time by more than two minutes.
After the racing of September 28th’s notably close finishes (the tightest margin was 8 seconds), the rising breezes of Saturday October 5th saw some larger gaps, and even in the One Designs this was often the case, with the Squibs seeing Killyleagh visitor Rob Marshall in Slipstream right on top of his game to beat Simon Sheahan’s O’Leary by four minutes, with Ronan McDonnell’s Fantome another 2 minutes 15 seconds being that.
The Puppeteer 22s found themselves in a Redress Given situation, and from it Dave Clarke with Harlequin emerging as winner with Scorie Walls in Gold Dust equal second with Alan Blay and Algy Pearson in Trick or Treat, thereby keeping ToT in the overall lead from Neil Murphy and Conor Costello in Yellow Peril.
As the wind piped up for the Howth 17s, it was no surprise when the hard men in Deiliginis (Massey brothers, Mikey Toomey and Keith Kenny) marched into the lead, finishing first with more than one and a half minutes on Peter Courtney’s Oona, who was in turn one minute and 33 seconds ahead of the Turvey brothers on Isobel.
As the breeze flexed its muscles, the J/80s came to life, and Dan O’Grady planed into a clear lead on Robert Dix’s Jeannie, with Nobby Reilly’s Red Cloud a bit closer in third.
There are still three races to go over two weekends, and with the prospect of next Saturday’s intensive back-to-backs concentrating minds more than somewhat, in most cases there’s still all to play for, but at the moment with the halfway stage well passed, the overall leaders are:
IRC1: Rockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins, RIYC).
IRC 2: Checkmate XVIII (Nigel Biggs, HYC & RIYC).
IRC3: Alliance II (Vincent Gaffney, HYC)
IRC4: Tiger (Stephen Harris & Frank Hughes, HYC).
IRC 5: Demelza (Windsor & Steffi, HYC)
Howth 17s: Rita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch, HYC)
Puppeteer 22s: Trick or Treat (Alan Pearson and Alan Blay, HYC).
Squibs: O’Leary (Simon Sheahan, HYC).
J/80s: Jammy (Dan O’Grady, HYC)
Get yourself a sponsorship partner of intriguing Russian descent, and you can hardly be surprised that an element of Russian Roulette enters the staging of your annual Autumn League writes W M Nixon. With the presence of hurricanes past and present in the Atlantic making weather prediction a matter of dealing with unknowable unknowns, deciding to pull the trigger to set a day’s racing in action could have unwelcome outcomes.
Certainly that was the feeling beforehand a week ago among the seasoned race officers at Howth Yacht Club, particularly those in charge of the smaller boats and One Design classes on Saturday in the Beshoff Motors Autumn League. The series had opened the previous weekend in idyllic racing conditions despite the hugely damaging Hurricane Dorian self-destructing somewhere out in the Atlantic towards Greenland, and the bar had been set high for good quality sailing for subsequent contests.
But as the days counted down towards Saturday, September 21st, the decidedly erratic wanderings of Hurricane Humberto were creating prediction confusion. Humberto battered the hell out of Bermuda and then went missing for a while. How an entire hurricane – albeit a rapidly decaying one - can apparently disappear for a while is a matter of mystery. But it meant that last Friday, so many extremely pessimistic strong wind strength forecasts were being doled out for Ireland that at one stage it was was even considered cancelling the entire day’s racing for the little ’uns, with an announcement on Friday night, which would thus allow people plenty of time to make alternative arrangements for the day’s entertainment.
However, jaws were soon firmed up, sinews were tightened, and the East Coast effect was brought to mind. It’s not always beneficial – think of the East Coast damage in Hurricane Charlie in August 1986, or Storm Emma in March 2018. But on balance, while the weather can be going down the tubes in the western two-thirds of the country, on the east coast they can often slip a day’s racing in under the radar before things go haywire on the wind-strength front. And last Saturday was a classic case in point, with things blown out in Kinsale, yet in Leinster they’d marvellous sailing in a brisk but warm southeast to east breeze.
In Howth, it was a double get-out in the Russian Roulette, as the programme for all classes was two windward-leewards back-to-back, and it all went through in style and with sunshine most of the time. But the venerable Howth 17s had a modest turnout, for two windward-leewards isn’t quite their thing, as many of them think that just one race with plenty of reaching so that they can discuss matters other than sailing is enough for any one day, thank you very much.
And they also had the problem of it being marginal topsail weather. Only two set topsails, but as the breeze sharpened through the afternoon, the majority decision proved right, for though the topsail-sporting Isobel (Turvey brothers) won the first race, she was back in fourth for the second when the bald-headed Sheila (Mulligan/Johnson) took the bullet.
Looking towards this weekend, tomorrow (Friday) looks like being a complete wind-and-rain-sodden duvet day. But at the time of writing, peninsular positivity reckons that if Friday is sufficiently horrible, Saturday might surprise everyone with another good sailing day, and with only one race scheduled with all sorts of attractively quirky courses a possibility, the traditional appeal is there for the taking.
Plus that, if a race can be managed on Saturday, the four-race discard kicks in, which opens things up a bit and gives an injection of life for the final three weekends. Currently among the heavies in Class 1, Pat Kelly’s J/109 Storm (Rush SC) and Paul O’Higgins’s JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC) are neck-and-neck on 4 points apiece with the Howth J/109 Outrajeous (Richard Colwell & Johnny Murphy) third on 5, while in Class 2’s hot Half Tonners, Nigel Biggs’ Checkmate XVIII has opened out two point on Dave Cullen’s Checkmate XV, which in turn has two points in hand on the Evans brothers with The Big Picture.
In Class 3, two wins last Saturday have brought the Patterson/Darmody team on Viking into the overall lead, with Vincent Gaffney’s Laser 28 Alliance second and the Mullaney brothers in the Sigma 33 Insider third. Class 4 (whitesail) has the First 40 Tiger (Stephen Harris & Frank Hughes) in the lead from Dermot Shehan’s Humphreys 34 Toughnut, with Colm Bermingham’s Elan 333 Bite the Bullet in third, while Class 5 (whitesail) is led by Gordon Knaggs’ First 32 Jokers Wild with the evergreen Club Shamrock Demelza (Windsor & Steffi) second and the McCoy/Creegan First 38 Out and About third.
The One Designs saw the top-turnout Puppeteer 22s watching their National Champion 2019 Yellow Peril (Neil Murphy and Conor Costello) give something of a master-class with two wins in the back-to-back, they’re now equal first on 8 points with the two Alans - Pearson & Blay - in Trick or Treat, while Scorie Walls helmed Gold Dust towards a couple of fourths last weekend to get them into third overall.
The Howth 17s likewise have a tie at the top, with the Turveys on Isobel matching John Curley and Marcus Lynch in Rita on 7 points, while Deilginis (Massey brothers, Mikey Twomey and Keith Kenny) is back on 12.5 in third, so they’ll be looking for a good one on Saturday and a useful discard.
The Squibs are coming to life again, with the arrival of hotshot Rob Marshall from Killyleagh in Strangford Lough a wake-up call last Saturday, as he took a first and second with Slipstream. But HYC’s own Simon Sheahan stays ahead on 1,4,1 with O’Leary, second being Derek Bothwell with Tears in Heaven while third is Ronan McDonnell in Fantome.
Dan O’Grady has leapt into the lead in the J/80s with a second and first on Saturday, while the class’s senior rockstar Robert Dix had to make do with a couple of fourths, which kept him at second overall on countback, as Nobby Reilly in third matches him on points at 7.0.
No matter which forecast source you rely on, tomorrow weather is going to be plain horrible, but the hope in Howth is that it will all – gales and rain and everything - have cleared away eastward in time for another meteorological miracle on Saturday afternoon in this ongoing Russian Roulette. Whatever it brings, the Howth Seventeens hope for a breeze which clearly indicates whether it’s a topsail day or not, and stays steady, for the lowering of topsails in mid-race is not something to be undertaken lightly…
Detailed results here
Checkmates, XVIII (N Biggs) and XV (D Cullen) continue to dominate Class 2 in the Beshoff Motors sponsored Autumn League series at Howth Yacht Club on Saturday.
With a week of ominous forecasts leading up the second Saturday, and the Friday night forecasts still going with south-easterlies of 14 – 28 knots, ‘will there be racing?’ was the big concern for competitors and the race committee. However, the 28-knots proved unduly pessimistic and on leaving the harbour the fleets found 15 to 18 knots, beautiful warm sunshine and a ‘delicately’ rolling sea, the sea state still being enough to upset a few of the more sensitive stomachs.
After a long ‘round the cans’ race on the first day, the plan for Saturday was two Windward Leewards. The numbers for the J80 Class were boosted by boats visiting to compete in the Class’s National Championships, which were being competed for over both Saturday and Sunday, counting the two Autumn League races from the first day with a further three on the second day.
The inshore and offshore courses were quickly set up by the ever-efficient race management, forcing the skippers to a decision on the major quandary of the day - belief the forecasts and reduce sail or rig for the conditions at the start. The more cautious reduced sail and possibly regretted it as their expected increase in wind speed turned out to be an ease. Nonetheless, there was still enough oomph in the breeze to leave Fusion (Hughes / Power) without their rig and heading back to the harbour, fortunately under their own power.
On the offshore course for the larger boats, Class 1 is being dominated by the visiting Rockabill VI (P. O’Higgins) and the two HYC based J109s, Outrajeous (Colwell / Murphy) and Storm (P Kelly). Outrajeous and Storm each took a win on IRC while, on ECHO, Rockabill VI and Storm got the glory. This leaves Storm leading on IRC while Rockabill VI has top spot on ECHO.
The two Half Tonner Checkmates, XVIII (N Biggs) and XV (D Cullen) continue to dominate Class 2 on IRC, each taking a win to leave Checkmate XVIII leading overall. On ECHO, the X302 Maximus (P.Kyne) is leading overall despite Checkmate XV taking the win in Race 2 and Xebec (Bourke, McGirr and Ball) getting first in Race 3.
In White Sails Class 4, Tiger (S Harris) is the boat to catch in IRC with a score to date of 1, 2, 1, Toughnut (D. Skehan) spoiling Tiger’s record by taking victory in Race 2. Raging Bull (M. Davis) leads on ECHO although the race winners on the day were Changeling (K. Jameson) and Trinculo (M. Fleming). In Class 5 IRC, Demelza (Laudan/Ennis) returned from a DNC in Race 1 with two wins, although these were not enough to take the overall lead away from Jokers Wild (G Knaggs). Class 5 ECHO has a 15 boat entry so race wins are hard to come by. Mary Ellen (O’Byrne/ Carty/ Finucane) and Jokers Wild shared the race wins but Blues Xtra (M. Carroll) retains the series lead.
On the inshore course, Cruisers 3 is first class to start. Alliance (V Gaffney) is leading on IRC with the help of a win in Race 2 while Viking (Patterson / Darmody) got the victory in Race 3. On ECHO, Viking found the conditions in both races to their liking and added two ECHO victories to their IRC win to give them the overall lead on ECHO.
The 16 boat Puppeteer 22 fleet has bragging rights as the largest Class in the event. Yellow Peril (Murphy / 'Yellow Peril' takes advantage of a big pin-end bias at the start or race 1 'Yellow Peril' takes advantage of a big pin-end bias at the start or race 1 Costello) recovered from their 6th place on scratch in Race 1 to take both wins and share the overall lead with Trick or Treat (Pearson/ Blay). On handicap, Flycatcher (M Dunne) and the ever-competitive Cyprian Feeley in Cloud 9 each took a first place but it is Ghosty Ned (D. Harkin) who leads overall.
The Squib fleet was boosted by Rob Marshall in Slipstream, visiting from Killyleagh SC, for his first outing of the series and he immediately found his groove to win Race 2. However, O’Leary (S Sheahan) came back to add Race 3 to their win in Race 1 and establish themselves as overall leader on scratch. Tears In Heaven (D Bothwell) and Tais (E Mulvihill), a newcomer to the HYC fleet, each took a win on handicap to leave Tears in Heaven as the overall leader.
The Howth 17s had very close racing. On scratch, Isobel (B and C Turvey) won Race 2 while Gladys (Byrne/ Ferris/ Heydon) won Race 3. Rita (Lynch/ Curley) and Isobel now tie for the lead on scratch. Zaida (T Houlihan) won both races on handicap and is the series leader.
The J/80 Class were racing in both the Autumn League and, with additional competitors, their Nationals. The Autumn League wins on scratch were taken by Mojo (P. O’Neill) and Jammy (D. O’Grady) to leave Jammy with the overall lead. Mojo and Jam Jar (Watson / Cagney) each took a win on handicap but the overall lead is held by Red Cloud (N Reilly) with the help of second-place finishes in both Races 2 and 3.
Howth Yacht Club say some issues with sets of the results here mean that they will need to be adjusted during the week.
Bright sunshine, a good but warm sailing breeze, and summer temperatures which lasted well into the evening made Saturday’s opening of the 38th annual Autumn League at Howth Yacht Club – partnered this year by specialist car importers Beshoff Motors – into an idyllic July day which had somehow strayed into Autumn. But nobody was complaining about this inversion in normal climatic circumstance as the nine classes – with 18 sets of results when the outcome was calculated in different ways – made the best of the truly marvellous afternoon.
The fleet was mostly local, but there were contenders from Malahide and Rush too, while the enthusiastically-campaigned newly-acclaimed ISORA 2019 Champion, the JPK Rockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins, RIYC) made her way across Dublin Bay to compete - but then, as her name implies, she does have certain links with Fingal, and in a sense it was a home-coming.
As usual, it was the local One Designs, the backbone of Howth sailing, which provided the biggest fleet numbers, with the Puppeteer 22s mustering 16 entries, while the vintage Howth 17s turned out with 14 boats resplendent in their jackyard topsails.
And as it is the 40th Anniversary Year for the Squibs in Howth (the word is there’s a party to celebrate this in November), the class is undergoing one of its revivals. You could do a doctoral thesis on the waxing and waning of the Squibs at different centres in Ireland, but the almost moribund Howth nucleus has suddenly shown signs of new life, and there were eight of them racing with O’Leary (S Sheahan) winning from Derek Bothwell’s Tears in Heaven while Fantome (R.McDonnell) was third.
Naturally the glamour interest in the fleet as a whole tended to focus on Class 1 and the showing of Rockabill VI, but the O’Higgins boat found herself faced with wall-to-wall north county J/109s, and they took the first three places with Rockabill VI fourth, the winner being Outrajeous (Richard Colwell & Johnny Murphy, HYC), while second was the new RC 35 2019 Champion, Pat Kelly’s Storm from Rush SC, with HYC’s Simon Knowles and Colm Buckley’s Indian, another J/109, in third.
Howth’s classic Half Tonners are in a league of their own, which tends to distort Class 2 results, and Saturday was no exception, with Nigel Biggs’ Checkmate XVIII winning from Dave Cullen’s Checkmate XV, while Mike and Richard Evans’ The Big Picture came third and another Half Ton hottie, Jonny Swan’s Harmony, was fourth. Meanwhile, the first boat from the real world was Anthony Gore-Grimes’ consistent X302 Dux in fifth.
Class 3 saw current Sigma 33 Irish National Champion Insider getting the win for Stephen and Des Mullaney (HYC) from Vincent Gaffney’s Laser 28 Alliance II, with the Patterson/Darmody partnership’s much-modified Viking third
Non-spinnaker classes saw wins for the First 40 Tiger (Stephen Harris & Frank Hughes) and Terry McCoy & Mick Creegan’s veteran First 38 Out and About, while the J/80s saw Robert Dix (All-Ireland Helmsmans Champion of 1970, believe it or not, though he has achieved many other successes since) taking the line with his Jeannie from Jabs (J O’Dowd), while third went to Nobby Reilly with Red Cloud.
As for the Puppeteer 22s and Howth Seventeens, the racing was great at every level of their numerically significant fleets with the Seventeens being led in by Rita (John Curley & Marcus Lynch) which also won the class’s very first race in April 1898, though the word is there was a different owner back then, but in the Seventeens all things are possible. Second were the Turvey brothers in Isobel and third was HYC Commodore Ian Byrne with Eddie Ferris in Gladys.
As for the Puppeteers, they went back to the season-long situation of the two Alans – Pearson & Blay – winning with Trick or Treat, this time from Scorie Walls in Gold Dust with Ibis (S Sheridan) third, while the 2019 National Championship winner Yellow Peril (Neil Murphy & Conor Costello) had to be content with sixth.
Meanwhile, the search continues for the positional situation in Saturday’s racing of the current Irish Half-Ton Champion Mata (Michael & Darren Wright and Rick De Neve, HYC). She went out to compete with a stratospheric rating listed as being 0.989, which was out of sight compared to all the other Half Tonners which are in the 0.945 to 0.947 range. As of the time of writing, Mata has not yet landed in her true position. But as suggested on Saturday in another context, Mata should really be called Kittyhawk, as that was where the Wright brothers learned to fly, and where they also learned that flying is a doddle - it’s the landing that’s the tricky bit…..
Detailed results here
Howth Yacht Club has a fresh buzz to it these days, an electrical charge which - if they could somehow package, market and sell it at its true value - would surely provide a handy addition to club revenues. But as Commodore Ian Byrne relies on a very significant proportion of his large membership putting in hours of voluntary work afloat and ashore with dedicated time which at least begins to match his own exceptional enthusiasm for keeping the show on the road and heading in the right direction at optimal speed, the Howth Buzz isn’t a beneficial conjunction of favourable forces which could be easily put in a box of any manageable size, even if it is based on the mantra that problems should be seen as opportunities.
In tandem with the energy and sailing success at home and abroad emanating from the Club and thoroughly justifying its current position as the Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year 2019, the harbourside and peninsular community in which HYC plays a central role increasingly finds itself becoming a tourism destination. And with good weather in prospect this weekend and the 38th Annual Howth Autumn League getting underway today with sponsorship from Beshoff Motors (of which more anon), there’s no doubt that at some stage access to the peninsula through Sutton Cross will be busy.
Time was when the safest way to travel from Dublin to Howth was as a passenger in a sailing and rowing ferry boat which departed in mid-city towards high water from steps beside Abbey Street, and sailed across the inner reaches of Dublin Bay to land at a quay of sorts in Sutton to the northwest of the current location of Sutton Dinghy Club.
There was, of course, a rough road all the way out to Howth from Dublin, going overland and then across the sandy tombolo which makes Howth a peninsula. But it was only to be used by those who customarily travelled with a properly-armed retinue, for it passed through Raheny, which once upon a time was one of Ireland’s liveliest places for highwaymen and others of ill-repute. But Howth – once you got there and were safely within the shelter of the Howth Castle’s enclosing boundary walls - was a haven of civilization, visited by the likes of Jonathan Swift and other luminaries who raised the tone of the thought and conversation about the entire place.
However, after Thomas Telford had completed his road from Dublin to Howth around 1823 to facilitate those using the ferry from there to North Wales and on to London (from where the road was mile-posted – with English miles too – all the way back to central Dublin), Raheny was tamed. So much so, in fact, that in recent years it has been judged one of the more quietly civilized, convenient and amenity-laden places in which to live in all Dublin.
Certainly, the Raheny and Clontarf area has, in St Anne’s Park, some of the most soothing and attractively laid-out woodlands in all Ireland. It is courtesy of the late Lord Ardilaun, whose fellow Irishmen were drinking his Guinness stout with such profitable enthusiasm that in the early years of the 20th century, he could somehow find the readies to create St Anne’s Park while at the same time splashing the cash big-time on Ashford Castle at the Mayo end of Lough Corrib in Connacht.
The result is that Raheny is now the haunt of discerning writers of distinction and others in the creative arts, whereas in Howth they’re a rough and ready lot who – even if they were the very essence of civilization as they headed towards the place – undergo some sort of Jekyll and Hyde transformation as they transit Sutton Cross.
As a result, the only conversation is about sailing and other sports, and when it’s about sailing it’s invariably soon focused on sailing success - on which they do place an almost indecent emphasis - or about the state of the harbour, which is badly in need of some serious dredging.
For sure, if you’re about Howth Harbour when the tide has even half risen, you’d think the place was well nigh perfect, with the 124-year-old yacht club in this increasingly good health, the sailing schools busier than ever, and the fishing fleet looking their best after the traditional August refit.
With its extraordinary selection of quayside restaurants in their quaint variety of buildings to every known design, and some unknown ones too, together with its scenic and harbour attractions, Howth is indeed - as somebody from Dun Laoghaire enviously claimed recently – a “tourism magnet”.
Admittedly we who actually live in the place sometimes think that, thanks to some tomfool writers of cheapo travel guides, Howth can occasionally feel swamped by back-packing tightwads whose idea of a good day out is to take the DART to Howth, walk the incomparable cliff path, and then if they’ve any time left before heading back to their budget accommodation in the city, they can always go and look at people working around the fishing boats.
For really, there is no better way to add spice to your holiday than idly watching somebody else work, and the harder the better. Best of all is the happy recollection - as you trundle back to Hostelsville on the DART – that taking the cliff path and then watching the boat work underway doesn’t cost a cent…….
At the moment, it’s the picturesque combination of working and sailing harbour and exceptional coastal and hillside scenery with a cliff path all within easy reach of the city which seems to be the main selling point. Those of us who, back in the day, walked the cliff path in full evening wear at dawn after returning home from some May Ball or other in nearby Ireland, we do wonder a little about those determined-looking adventurers who currently disgorge from the DART in full hiking gear just to do the same….
But perhaps we should give thanks that the main thrust of the Howth package seems to be in the attractions of the here and now. We do have self-conscious re-enactments of the Asgard and Erskine Childers Howth gun-running of July 1914 now and again, but mercifully at the moment, there doesn’t seem to have been any significant tapping-in to Howth’s extraordinary literary links.
Admittedly you do hear of Jonathan Swift’s links, and since then the poet Samuel Fergusson brought the place into focus, while of course Erskine Childers ingeniously wrote The Riddle of the Sands ten years before he reckoned that Howth was the perfect spot to drop a few guns ashore.
But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that the family of William Butler Yeats lived for two years in the early 1880s in a tall damp and cold house (of which his sisters constantly complained) on the Howth waterfront, a house which Mick Hunt has since brilliantly transformed into a bright and warm and cheerful home. Then too, not only does a central scenes from Joyce’s Ulysses feature Howth, but as well one of the great Howth characters, Judge Boyd whose son Herbert designed the ever-young Howth 17s in 1897, was named-checked in Ulysses as the originator of the old Dublin saying: “It wouldn’t break Boyd’s heart”. But as for the precise origin of that, well, you’ll just have to finally finish reading Ulysses with real concentration to find out where it applies.
At a more modern level, J P Donleavy’s classic The Ginger Man has its hero living for a while in a clifftop house at Balscadden in Howth, a house under which storms crashed in caves with a hollow roar. One morning, in dire financial straits in this house, the Ginger Man cut a pale pink blanket into scarf-like strips, adorned himself with one of those strips in order to pass muster as a Trinity Pink and strode with totally artificial confidence and his best efforts at a West Brit accent into Findlaters, the up-market grocery store beside Howth Harbour, where he conned his way into opening an account in order to fill the larder back up on the cliff.
These days, Findlaters is the noted pub with restaurants which is the flagship of the Wright hospitality conglomerate, and the Wright brothers Michael and Darren are into the sailing with various international ventures (again more anon), while at home they campaign the classic Half Tonner Mata, which took the Irish National Title in the Half Ton Championship at Kinsale at the end of June, while Darren’s son Rocco is, of course, a young star in the Optimist class at international level, having taken tenth at the Worlds in Antigua in July, and cutting a swathe to the podium in the Optimist scene in Europe.
But for old Howth fans, the truly wonderful sailing connection to Findlater’s is that when the new Howth 17 Class set its sailing rules for its first season in 1898, it stated: “The time to be taken from Findlater’s Clock”. In pre-1916 Ireland, time was a very local affair, and the conspicuous but now long-gone clock on the front of Findlater’s was a blessing for the race officers of the recently-formed Howth Sailing Club and its new class.
So with untapped historical and literary connections, maybe at the moment, we’re only looking at a trickle of small-spending Howth visitors compared to what the place might attract. Imagine being like Venice and Dubrovnik, trying to find polite ways of keeping them out…..
That said, it has to be admitted that many visitors to Howth are ready and willing to spend, and with the St Lawrence family now exiting Howth Castle after a brief occupation of 842 years, who knows but what a new high-end hotel created by the Tetrarch think-tank in the castle grounds will provide to make the best of the incomparable outlook from the hill. Certainly there will be those who will be able to take the long view, for after all we still have four families in Howth of centuries-old Danish descent – the Harfords, the Ricards, the Thunders and the Waldrons – who were here before the St Lawrences arrived.
In those weighty tomes, the Saga of the Harfords, the Road of the Ricards, the Trail of the Thunders, and the Way of the Waldrons, the advent of the St Lawrences in Howth will be seen as no more than a passing incursion, maybe worth no more than a chapter or two. But before the occupants of the castle take their departure, let it be said that it isn’t really true to claim that the St Lawrences were of an old Norman family. They took the name St Lawrence because they captured Howth on St Lawrence’s Day, August 10th 1177, in a private-venture offshoot from the Norman invasion of Dublin. They did it in the Battle of Evora, aka the Battle of the Bloody Stream, right beside where the pub of the same name – which is also the DART station, but that’s Howth for you – now stands.
The main man in this in this pivotal little skirmish was one Tristram Armoricus from Armorica, the Place-by-the-Sea, as the long-gone Romans had called Brittany. He was a war-and-plunder machine with a horse, sword, and lance for hire, whose best reward was likely to be any place he could capture, a fighting man who had pledged his loyalty to the Norman invasion in Rennes Cathedral in Brittany, and had joined the preparing Norman invasion forces of Strongbow and his chums in southwest Wales direct from Brittany. Thus the first St Lawrence was Breton, and probably had much more Celtic blood than those of Danish extraction whom he vanquished in Howth.
But that’s really neither here nor there in modern Howth, which has people from everywhere. Some of them admittedly have the slightly bewildered look of people who, having found their way across the narrow gap which gives access to the place and ensures its peninsular status, have been unable to find their way out again.
Others have learned that at certain times, the best way to reach Howth or leave it is in the old pre-Telford style, by boat. But they too may have a slightly bewildered look from time to time, for they may be wondering why - as Howth’s harbour users have fulfilled their side of the deal with the official authorities by making the best possible use of the harbour - why haven’t the authorities shaped up to their part of the bargain by giving the place a much-needed dredging?
It was 1982 when the basic harbour shape as we now know it was virtually completed after several years of massive work and some very total disruption of village life. Yet in the 37 years since, there has only been some minor dredging, such as removing a rock in the marina entrance which had somehow been overlooked, but which was soon discovered in bone-shaking style as yachts became bigger and slightly deeper.
So that’s 37 years lacking in the most basic routine maintenance needed for a harbour which, as it is set in a sandy coastal area and has strong tides pouring past its entrance, has always been liable so silting. So much so, in fact, that in times long past the fairly frequent visits of the Government bucket dredger Sisyphus (they’d a way with words in those days) was taken for granted.
Except for the increasingly urgent matter of depth reduction, Howth is an excellent harbour. Maybe that’s the problem. Above the surface, to the casual observer, it all looks world class, and under Harbour Master Harry McLoughlin is certainly tidier than it has ever been. But below that gleaming water surface, all is not as it should be.
It wouldn’t be allowed to happen in any serious maritime country.
But as we’ve pointed out before, we may be an island nation, but we’re not really a maritime-minded country. In fact, the most successful maritime country is The Netherlands, which shouldn’t really be a maritime country at all. But the Dutch are determined when they set their minds to it, and in The Netherlands, all their many harbours are routinely dredged at least every five years, and more frequently if special local conditions make it necessary.
This might seem like home-town griping from a local, but the fact is that Howth, as it is today, is as a result of several agreements reached between Government departments – some of which have since been subsumed into other departments and may not be too aware of all their responsibilities - and the harbour users of Howth.
Put at its most basic, the Government agreed to improve the harbour to such an extent that, in effect, they provided an empty new harbour with great potential, while the users – fishermen and recreational sailors alike – agreed to invest privately in order to make the new harbour work.
Thus the fishing fleet which regularly uses Howth – not all of which necessarily regard Howth as their home port – are active in keeping the place busy as a fishing port and paying substantial dues, while also using the employment-providing revenue-generating ship repair and maintenance facilities which the government had installed.
As for the sailing community, they made an even bigger leap in the dark. In order to draw clear boundaries between commercial and leisure use, the government agreed to provide a newly-dredged basin in the eastern part of the harbour on condition that Howth Yacht Club install a marina in it at HYC’s own expense, and also build a completely new clubhouse beside it (also at their own expense) in order to move all recreational boating activity away from the new fish dock in the western portion of the harbour.
For those of an optimistic outlook in the sailing community, it seemed a proposal of hopeful potential. But for pessimists – just under half as the serious debates got under way – it seemed a huge leap into unknown and disaster-fraught territory, and they sought some much more modest proposal.
In the end, the vote - in a packed-out and passionate town hall sort of meeting - was in favour of the big vision. But the work was only beginning, as it has been kept going ever since, for running a yacht club in the middle of a harbour which becomes a tourism venue thanks in part to the club’s success means that in some ways the club is its own undoing. This is because the hospitality facilities which it has installed as part of the package are soon being rivalled by nimble private operators – the precursors of today’s pop-up restaurants – who could see ready new opportunities in people seeking the ocassional change of venue for eating out, and there were many of them – members and non-members alike - thanks to the new perception of Howth as a gastronomic centre, a perception which the club had done so much to create.
So as we move forwards towards 2020 - when Howth Yacht Club will be celebrating its 125th Anniversary with a very full programme while maintaining due deference to the Royal Cork’s Tricentenary – the wish-list by all in Howth at every level of interaction with the harbour is becoming clearer by the day.
High on that list would be a hope that the authorities will realise that, 32 years after it opened its new award-winning clubhouse in 1987, Howth YC is operating in a very different world. People’s behavior and their way of life generally has changed in ways large and small.
The big clubhouse is trying to function in a socio-economic environment very different from that of 1987. The business model which made the club such an economic success in its first 20 and more years no longer fits so well into changing circumstances, even if very skilled and cost-conscious management has brought some current improvement to the situation. Clearly, what the club needs is some new thinking on the part of the authorities in order to let them optimize their clubhouse’s potential without in any way diminishing its key role in the community.
But right now, top of the list and with a certain urgency is the lack of depth in parts of the harbour. The requirement for dredging has of course been under discussion for a long time, and an increasingly clear programme has emerged, while a much more cohesive approach has also developed. Although the needs of the fishing fleet are obviously paramount, the fishermen’s leaders – Sean Doran and John Lynch – are in the forefront of seeing the harbour in its entirety, and when they brought Taoiseach Leo Varadkar out to see Howth and its problems for himself back in December, it was their suggestion that his tour of the harbour should conclude with cups of teas for all in the HYC clubhouse, the day rounded out by the Taoiseach meeting leading sailors and junior trainees from the club and the five neighbourhood schools which use the club’s sailing training programme.
Despite the inevitable limitations placed by the increasing siltation situation, ad hoc solutions have been found around them to keep the programme moving along, and the club’s top success in running a record-turnout 11-nations Irish Optimist Nationals in August in very demanding conditions was of course not particularly depth reliant, but it certainly tested the strength and flexibility of Howh’s capacity to handle major events.
Thus ways will be found of continuing while the dredging is under way, and at the moment the best scenario timescale is that work on improving and deepening the Middle Pier’s west side for use by the fishing fleet will begin in 2020, but the major harbour dredging programme won’t start until 2021, and will last for at least 18 months.
So that’s two-and-a-half years of harbour disruption of various levels in prospect from next year (unless, of course, a messy Brexit upsets all Government finances). But for those of us who lived in the village during the massive harbour work which went on for years in the early 1980s (when the Irish economy was actually shrinking), we know that relatively speaking, this is a much smaller disruption coming down the line. Its ultimate benefit will be appreciated by all, and that cussed Howth ingenuity will find ways of keeping the harbour and its fishing and sailing functioning in one way and another.
Meanwhile, a quick canter through some Howth sailing achievements to date in 2019 show the kind of pace that is being set. Laura Dillon won the UK Open National Women’s Championship, Jonny Swan’s classic Half Tonner Harmony won Class 3 in the Scottish Championship, the Wright brothers (they should call their boat Kittyhawk) won the Irish Half Ton Nationals at Kinsale with Mata, young Rocco Wright then went on to get tenth in the Optimist worlds, apparently the highest-ever by an Irish helm, Eve McMahon won the Gold in the U17 Laser Radial Worlds in Canada, Robert Dickson & Sean Waddilove won the Bronze in the U23 49er Worlds, Jamie McMahon won Gold in the U21 Laser Radial Euros, Aoife Hopkins qualified for the final play-off for the 2020 Olympic spot in the Women’s Laser Radials, Alistair Kissane won the Moth Nationals, the Howth-inspired all-Ireland J/24 Headcase with HYC’s Cillian Dickson and Sam O’Byrne on board won the J/24 Nationals on Lough Erne, the Gore-Grimes family with the X302 Dux won Class 3 at the ICRA Nats, the Sigma 33 Invader (Stephen & Des Mullaney) was top Irish boat in the extra-large Sigma 33 40th Anniversary fleet in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, the veteran Club Shamrock Demelza (Steph Ennis & Windsor Lauden) won her non-spinnaker class at the VDLR 2019, Dave Quinn of HYC is the 2019 Irish Laser Masters Champion, Pat Kelly’s J/109 Storm (whose club affiliation Howth is happy to share with Rush SC) is the new 2019 RC35 Champion, and in that incredible Irish Optimist Nats, while James Dwyer Matthews of Kinsale was overall winner, Howth were very strongly represented in the top ten with Luke Turvey second, and the season-long rankings have Matthews (Kinsale) first, but with Rocco Wright (Howth) second and Luke Turvey third.
As for the local classes which are the backbone of Howth sailing, the Howth 17s had a reasonable across-the-fleet spread, though it has to be admitted that when it really mattered – and particularly in the Annual Championship –Deliginis (Massey family & Mikey Twomey) were firmly in front, while in the Puppeteer 22s, Trick or Treat (Alan Pearson & Alan Blay) were on tops generally, but Yellow Peril (Neil Murphy & Conor Costello) shone in the Annual Championship.
Looking to the future before 2019 ends, doubtless by the time it happens we’ll find that there are Howth contenders in the Middle Sea Race at the end of October, and meanwhile it has been confirmed that the Wright brothers crew, with Kieran Jameson pulling things together, have chartered a First 40 for the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2019 on December 26th, a follow-up campaign to their highly-regarded third in class with the Lombard 45 Pata Negra in last year’s RORC Caribbean 600.
The largest section in the club, Howth YC’s very large Cruising Group, as ever will take a proper amount of time to assess where they’ve been and how, but they certainly do get out and about on coasts near and far. As for cruising visitors to Howth Marina, their numbers are up despite the occasional access problem, and interestingly enough they’re staying for longer, for as one of them put it: “We can be in Dublin city centre in 23 minutes by DART if we fell like it, the airport is very handy, and above all that, Howth is a very entertaining and hospitable place to be”.
So today this “entertaining and hospitable place” faces up with enthusiasm to the staging of its 38th Annual Autumn league, all made possible by the presence of the all-year security of the Marina. And it’s so very much part of the Howth story that it is being partnered by Beshoff Motors, the noted sourcers and importers of specialist cars, for the Beshoffs are very typical representatives of contemporary Howth
Most folk will be aware that Beshoff is a name which occurs fairly frequently on business facades in north Dubin and out east in Howth, yet by no stretch of the imagine is it Old Irish in any sense.
It was one Ivan Beshoff who brought the name here. He was a surviving mutineer from the crew uprising on the Tsarist Russian battleship Potemkin at Odessa in the Crimea in 1905. Having taken over the ship, the crew took her across the Black Sea to seek political asylum at Constantia in Romania, and there young Ivan Beshoff decided it as time to strike out on his own before the sclerotic Imperial Russian system came sufficiently to life to reclaim the ship.
So he took off and walked west across Europe. Right across an entire continent. Then he came to the English Channel and got himself across that and walked across England and Wales until he got to the sea again at St George’s Channel and the Irish Sea. And there he managed to get aboard ship and got to Ireland where he decided he’d done enough walking. He settled in Clontarf in north Dublin and got married and became a house painter and lived well and happily until the age of 105, continuing to enjoy life such that he was still getting dressed up in style and going ballroom dancing every Saturday night past his hundredth birthday, and begetting a mighty clan who are now much more Irish than the Irish themselves.
All that explains why, when you head down the pier at Howth in search of sustenance, the first of many restaurants on your left is called Ivan’s. And it also explains why, if you feel a sudden urge to own a Bugatti or some such exotic or simply rather good car, if you don’t want to do all the internet searching and form filling and hassle that’s involved by doing it personally, then the man to go to is Jeremy Beshoff.
Thus Beshoff Motors supporting the Howth YC Autumn League is so very Howth. And I’m much happier to promote Howth’s links to Ivan Beshoff than I am to talk of our fairly tenous but still definite links to the not-very-likeable William Butler Yeats. In fact, it’s much more agreeable to reflect on the connection to the charismatic Ginger Man than to find links to the cold fish Yeats, and we can also find a link to the congenial Oscar Wilde if we’ve a mind for it. That’s how it is in Howth as we contemplate the start of the 38th Autumn League, and reflect on the impending realities of the very necessary dredging of a popular and busy harbour which is so much an integral part of our village.
Optimism prevails. Problems are seen as opportunities. Nevertheless, at the moment we’re quietly hoping that something doesn’t come up which proves to be an insoluble opportunity…