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John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II (RIYC) put in a cracker of a start in the opening two races of the ICRA Nats at Royal Cork this afternoon with a couple of straight bullets in IRC 1 writes W M Nixon. The word is that with all sorts of meteorological mayhem threatening, PROs Jack Roy and Peter Crowley made sure that two good races were in the pot before the first day’s sailing ended. So although a blanket of increasingly heavy rain was spreading across by late afternoon, there was no question of rain stopping play in good sailing conditions in an onshore breeze.

Rob McConnell of Dunmore East with the A35 Fool’s Gold was next best. He’d a 2nd and 3rd, while Ronan Harris’s J/109 Jigamaree got onto the podium once with a second to go with her fifth in the first race and finish the day lying third overall.

icra nats2Getting down to business with the oldies. Ross McDonald’s veteran X-332 Equinox (foreground) gets herself well placed on Shane Statham’s vintage GK 34 Slack Alice as they clear the start. Photo: Robert Bateman

IRC 2 saw Jonny Swann in tune with Harmony, the classic Half Tonner notching a 1st and 4th to put her ahead of Ross McDonald’s veteran X-332 Equinox which came in on a 2nd and 3rd, with the other win going to ICRA Nats organizer Paul Tingle who campaigns the X34 Alpaca with his wife Deirdre. A fifth in the first race was enough to have them lying third overall at day’s end.

With Howth boats taking first and second in IRC 2, IRC 3 had to come up with something similar to underline the Dublin eastside club’s new lease of life. However, Crosshaven skipper Paul Gibbons decided otherwise, taking two wins with his Quarter Tonner Anchor Challenge, while the Howth men had to be content with two seconds for Robert Colwell’s Corby 25 Fusion to be second overall, and two thirds for Anthony Gore-grimes X-302 Dux.

icra nats 3The Corby 25 Fusion (second left, Richard Colwell) slicing through the chop to show the form that took two clean second places to be second overall, while Anthony Gore-Grimes’ X-302 Dux scored two thirds. Photo: Robert Bateman

Local boy gone abroad Flor O’Driscoll came home to show consistency with two seconds in his J/24 Hard On Port in IRC 4 to lead overall. In fact it was J/24s all the way down to seventh place in this class, which tells us something about the enduring appeal of the Rod Johnstone classic. Darragh McCormack finished second overall, while Mark Usher was third.

Non-spinnaker A/IRC was won by the Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo (Denis & AnneMarie Murphy) with a couple of J/80s – Rioja and Jedi - in second and third overall, which you’ll have to agree was a bizarre mixture of boat sizes. However, things were more normal in IRC B Non-Spinnaker where Clodagh O’Donovan’s Beneteau 35s5 Roaring Forties notched a 2nd and first to keep her ahead overall of Pat Vaughan’s Contessa 33 Aramis and Tom McCarthy’s Impala 28 Whistlin’ Dixie.

icra nats2The J/24 is very much alive and well and living at the ICRA Nats 2017 at Crosshaven. They took the first seven places in class, with seasoned campaigner Flor O’Driscoll on top of the points pile in Hard on Port. Photo: Robert Bateman

Certain well-known boats of high reputation were undoubtedly out there racing with great expectations which weren’t fulfilled on the day, but we’ll spare their blushes for the moment as everyone waits in wonder to see how the determined race managers will cope tomorrow with a very mixed weather pattern.

Link to Bob Bateman's day one photo gallery here

Day one results below: 

ICRA Zero

Cruisers 3 ICRA

Cruisers 3 ICRA

Cruisers 3 ICRA\

class 4 ICRA results

ICRA Adds:  

All seven divisions had a full schedule of races on the opening day of the ICRA National Championships on Cork Harbour this afternoon with close racing and surprises in several fleets. Of three defending champions present, just one is currently on course to retain a title.

ICRA Boat of the Year and defending Division 1 champion Joker 2 skippered by John Maybury of the Royal Irish Yacht Club is set fair for a hat-trick this weekend after winning both yesterday's races under IRC while also leading under Progressive ECHO.

Division 1 shared a start with Class Zero where defending champion Conor Phelan from the RCYC went head to head match-race style with Tony Ackland's Dark Angel from Swansea. The visitor gained the upper hand in race one, winning the first shift and covering the local boat around the cans inside Cork Harbour.

Phelan's crew led on the water in race two but were unable to open sufficient separation in another close race and the visitor took two bullets for the day on IRC.

The lighter conditions south of Roche's Point for the other divisions saw David Cullen's Checkmate XV slip to fifth overall on IRC handicap placing his title defence under pressure. Jonny Swan's Harmony, another Half-tonner from Howth YC leads the division on both IRC and Progressive ECHO but this eight strong fleet is tight with just a three point spread from first to fifth places.

If racing can be held in the weekend's forecast high winds, Cullen may yet find the edge to retain his title.

Paul Gibbons Anchor Challenge leads Division 3 overall, both on IRC and ECHO after two solid wins yesterday leaving Howth's Richard Colwell's Fusion and Anthony Gore-Grimes' Dux to hold both runner-up places, split on tie-break at the front of the ten boat division.

Former national champion Flor O'Driscoll with Hard On Port from the Royal St. George YC is proving hard to dislodge from his favourite status in Division 4 where J24 footers hold the top seven places under IRC handicap. Racing in ten knots off Roche's Point saw the Cobh sailor prove the worth of consistency with two second places for the day while Foynes Daragh McCormack with his newly acquired Stouche is looking like his main challenger after finding form with a win in the second race of the day.

Amongst the White Sails fleets, Denis and Anne-Marie Murphys' Nieulargo, a Grand Soleil 40 tops the A-fleet ahead of a pair of J80's while Clodagh O'Donavan's Roaring Forties, a Beneteau 35s5 leads the B fleet, both on ECHO handicap.

Meanwhile, Principal Race Officers Jack Roy and Peter Crowley are expected to wait until Saturday morning before making a decision on racing for the day in light of the the Near-Gale conditions forecast. If racing off Roche's Point is untenable, there may be an option to sail some or all of the divisions inside Cork Harbour.

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Wind – and too much of it – is foremost on the minds of Royal Cork organisers this morning at the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) championships in Cork Harbour.  While the 60–boat championships at Royal Cork Yacht Club is likely to kick off in ideal conditions off Roches Point at 2pm today, there are fears for the rest of the schedule with near gale conditions forecast.

The championships have the option of continuing inside the relative protection of Cork Harbour but setting courses inside the harbour area has its own problems with low water around noon each day.

Afloat.ie will bring you an evening report by WM Nixon and photos by Bob Bateman after this afternoon's first races.

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While everyone is very relieved and grateful that the crew of the Scottish-owned Ker 39 Inis Mor were saved after their boat sank at the Saltees at the weekend while on passage to Cork for the up-coming ICRA Nationals, there is still a sense of shock that a boat which was a successful veteran of three Round Ireland Races should have gone down so suddenly writes W M Nixon.

Inis Mor is best known in Irish sailing for her years campaigned by the Gouy family of France, who won an RORC Championship with her thanks to their overall win in the 2012 Round Ireland Race. She was always in the frame, as her other two circuits of Ireland notched her a second and a third. And her gallant owners further endeared themselves to the Irish sailing community through being entered for the Round Ireland Race as representing the Clifden Boat Club, as they have a property in Connemara.

Inis Mor was sold to top Scottish skipper Jonathan Anderson, whose own formidable track record at the sharp end of the fleet made the Anderson/Inis Mor equipe’s debut in Cork a keenly-anticipated event. Thus the news of this sinking, apparently caused by a failed toilet seacock with an ingress of water which was not obvious until it was too late to do anything to effectively seal it off, brings a sense of shock, and an added awareness that in a stripped-down racing boat, almost any equipment failure can have cumulative and potentially disastrous effects if not immediately dealt with.

Published in ICRA

ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney has expressed relief that everyone is safe after the weekend loss of Scottish competitor Inis Mor on its way to the ICRA National Championships at Royal Cork Yacht Club.

As Afloat.ie reported on Saturday, the Cruisers Zero Ker 39 sank off the Saltee Islands. All three crew were rescued by Coast Guard Helicopter.

“We are saddened by the loss of Inis Mór and the absence of our Scottish friends from the championship but we are enormously relieved that nobody was injured or worse during the sinking,” said McGibney. “We are thankful, as always for the professionalism of the Irish Coast Guard crew on Rescue 117 for winching the sailors to safety and to the Kilmore Quay RNLI lifeboat crew for their efforts to save the yacht.”

Bright and breezy conditions are on the cards for next weekend’s Irish Cruiser Racing Association’s annual championships at Crosshaven where a fleet of 60 boats from around Ireland are expected to contest four national titles.

A steady stream of boats arriving by road at the Royal Cork Yacht Club marked the build-up to the event over the weekend with several crews expected on the water on Thursday for training practice.

All four national champions will be defending their titles led by ICRA Boat of the Year, John Maybury’s Joker 2 from the Royal Irish YC who is aiming for a hat-trick victory in Class 1 this year. Class Zero champion Conor Phelan on Jump Juice will be without the Scottish challenger Inis Mor. Howth YC’s David Cullen arrived by road with Checkmate XV on Monday while Ken Lawless and Sybil McCormacks’ Cartoon from the Royal Irish YC is also ready to defend their Class 3 title. Read more in Afloat's runners and riders preview here.

Foynes based McGibney says 'safety will be upper-most in the ICRA event organisers’ thoughts' this weekend as current forecasts suggest winds in the upper-range of racing conditions for at least part of the event.

Published in ICRA

The yacht that sank off Wexford yesterday afternoon was the Scottish–owned Ker 39 Inis Mor. The top performer was en route to the Irish Cruiser Racer Association (ICRA) National Championships that begin at Royal Cork Yacht Club in Cork Harbour on Thursday. 

A social media post by the crew last night said: 'By now a lot of you may have heard the sad news. We are all glad that Clarke, Bob and Clara are safe and well. Unfortunately this afternoon Inis Mor sunk whilst on her way to Crosshaven. Clearly we are all absolutely gutted but very thankful to the [Coastguard] Rescue 117 helicopter crew who got the guys out the life raft and the Kilmore Quay RNLI team who came to assist'.

inis mor liferaft rescueThe crew, two men and a woman, evacuated to a liferaft (one crew visible top left of raft). Photo: Rescue 117

Inis Mor Ker 39Clyde–based Inis Mor, a Ker 39, was due to race at the ICRA championships on Thursday. Photo: Facebook/Inis Mor

inis mor routeThe yacht made good progress from the Clyde to Scotland and called in to Dun Laoghaire on its passage down the Irish Sea. Screengrab: Marine Traffic

As Afloat.ie reported earlier, the three sailors were rescued by Coastguard Helicopter and brought to Waterford airport. 

Rescue 117 reported it was tasked to a yacht sinking off the Saltee Islands on social media: 'The yacht crew had issued a Mayday call and had taken to their life-raft. The life-raft was spotted 11 miles away by our winchman on the FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) camera. Rescue 117 winched the three crew from the life-raft to the safety of the aircraft. They did not require any medical attention. Kilmore Quay lifeboat were also on scene. The yacht sank shortly after'.

The yacht, one of several international competitors travelling to the event, was one of four competing in Class Zero of the Cork Harbour based Championships. Read Afloat.ie's ICRA Runners and Riders event preview here.

Inis Mor is a 39–footer and a previous winner of the Round Ireland Race. 

Kilmore Quay RNLI attempted to keep the yacht afloat with pumps after it began to sink in ten–foot swells off the Saltee Islands.

Inis mor postYesterday's Facebook post on social media from onboard confirmed Inis Mor's location on the south coast and her final destination but just hours later the yacht sank (below)  Screengrab: Marine Traffic

inis mor position rescue

The Clyde–based yacht was was one of the biggest boats entered in the ICRA championships and was to compete at the three-day annual regatta starting on Thursday.

Afloat.ie sources say problems started when a toilet cracked on board and this led to the water ingress.

Published in ICRA

Three UK sailors, two men and a woman, were rescued off the Wexford coast this afternoon after their 39–foot yacht got into difficulty.

The yacht sank quickly after a toilet fractured and it started taking on water in ten–foot swells off the Saltee Islands.

The yacht began to sink and a Mayday call was made after three o'clock.

The search and rescue helicopter from Waterford airport managed to take the crew from the water. Kilmore Quay RNLI lifeboat also attended.

According to RTE.ie news, the three crew were brought to Waterford airport and did not need to go to hospital.

An RNLI spokeswoman told Afloat.ie: 'Three onboard evacuated into life raft where they were rescued by Waterford Coast Guard Helicopter. Kilmore Quay RNLI went onboard to try and pump water off the yacht and recovered the liferaft'.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Class bands released for next week's ICRA National Championship (see below) reveal a smaller than usual fleet for the Royal Cork Yacht Club Championships but with three events in three weeks all trying to attract boats out of Dublin where 90% of boats are based, it was always going to be a tough nut to crack. Championship fleet sizes will range from four boats in Class Zero to fourteen in Class Four where there will be some great battles for national honours starting next Thursday in Crosshaven. With early forecasts showing strong south-westerly winds prevailing, Afloat.ie sticks its neck out in a 'Runners and Riders' Guide to the 2017 Cork Harbour Championships.

Rockabill V RIYCThe ISORA front runner Rockabill VI, the JPK 10.80 is from the Royal Irish Yacht Club Photo: Afloat.ie

Class 0 There are just four boats in Class Zero and two are travellers to Cork Harbour. The Dubois 37, Dark Angel, ex–Antix, with Rob O'Leary onboard, won at Cork Week last year beating local favourite Jump Juice (Ker 37) for the top spot, so this pair are likely to produce another close battle next week. If winds are strong, a previous Round Ireland winner, Inis Mor, a Ker 39, will be a force to be reckoned with. [See update: Inis Mor sinks on way to championships –Ed.] The fourth boat entered is a Salona 45, Meridian. With half of the Zero fleet travelling to Cork for the event, the hope is the strong south–westerlies won't deter.

Storm ScotlandPat Kelly's J109 Storm has already won in Scotland (above) this season and is race–ready for the ICRA Nationals. Photo: Marc Turner Class 1 Only the four top J109’s from the 2016 ICRAs are turning up in Cork for this nine–boat class. Joker II, Storm, White Mischief and Jigamaree. The new Dublin Bay J109’s of Andrew Craig and Andrew Algeo are not entered. Algeo's Juggerknot is opting for the D2D and Sovereigns but not ICRAs. The JPK10.80 Rockabill VI (Paul O'Higgins) from the Royal Irish Yacht Club has already shown his potency offshore this season in the ISORA series, pundits say she will be strong in Cork too if all three days are sailed in strong winds, but one light day may prove her undoing. ICRA Boat of the Year, John Maybury's Joker II is going for three–in–a–row of ICRA wins, with Star keelboat Olympian Mark Mansfield as Tactician. Pat Kelly's Storm, fresh from a class win at last month's Scottish Series will certainly be in the mix. The Rush Sailing Club boat has now changed to symmetrical spinnakers which will give her an edge if winds are stronger. Kelly was afloat early this year and competing in the Spring Warmer in Howth and then HYC Wednesday nights. It means this team is race–ready as they have already proved in Scotland. Whether or not the new kite is paying dividends has not been disclosed. A tight–lipped Ronan Kelly told Afloat.ie: 'We can't really give that much feedback as it is very much in the early stages of trial for us'.  The IRC rating is slightly higher than Storm had prior to the change in spinnakers. And the decision to change, says Ronan Kelly, was based on the notion of 'why not try something different out?'

Tim Goodbody's J109 White Mischief is also very likely to be in the mix. Rob McConnell's A35 Fools Gold (second in Scotland last month) will be competitive, especially in stronger winds and former winner in ICRA Tralee 2013, the Xp–33 Bon Exemple (Colin Byrne of the Royal Irish) is also expected to be there or thereabouts. This will be a very competitive class, and wind conditions will likely make a big difference with Joker II the favourite in the mixed conditions but if it is strong on all three days, Rockabill VI is a likely winner.

Checkmate XVIICheckmate XVIII – the old Emiliano Zapata, ex Dick Dastardly, ex French Beret, ex Concorde from 1985 is undergoing a refit in North Wales and hopes to be at the ICRA Nationals in Cork Class 2 Normally, the Half tonners would be favourites in this 12-boat class and any one of Checkmate, Harmony or Big Picture could take it, especially if the conditions are mixed or lighter. Nigel Biggs new Checkmate XVII is entered and this is an unknown factor as is his appearance at all. 'We are putting long hours in at the moment but it's very touch and go. Fingers crossed...' he told Afloat.ie. If conditions are strong expect to see Ross McDonald's X-332 Equinox from Howth to be a dominant player, as she was at the 2015 ICRAs in Kinsale when she won easily in stronger winds. Paul Tingle's X34 Alpaca, as top–rated boat in this class, also could be a wild card.

Dux HYCStronger conditions may suit X302s like Dux from Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat.ie

Class 3  The quarter tonners, like the half tonners in class 2 are bottom of this the second biggest class of the ICRA championships with 13 entered. If conditions are light or mixed, expect Paul Gibbons Anchor Challenge to be strong. She has Olympian Kiliian Collins onboard and they will give Ken Lawless’s Cartoon, 2016 ICRA winner, a tough challenge. If conditions are stronger then the Corby 25’s Fusion and Stonehaven racing will be up there as will the two X302’s, Dux and Maximus. The Sigma 33’s could also prove competitive in the breeze. In a mixed event, however, the money would be on Anchor Challenge to take it.

J24 gala racingClose racing for the 16–boat J24 fleet at Foynes Yacht Club, ten J24s including Gala Racing (above) will be in Cork

Class 4 There are 10 J24’s in this class of 14, the event's biggest fleet, and the winner will very likely come from one of them. Corkman, Flor O'Driscoll, with his local knowledge, should be up there on Hard on Port. However, this is a close class and hard to call.

ICRA Nationals 2017 – Class Divisions (as at June 2, 2017). Data supplied by ICRA

DIVISIONBOAT NAMETYPE
     
0 Inis Mor Kerr 39
0 Meridian Salona 45
0 Jump Juice Ker 37
0 Dark Angel Dubois 37
     
1 Rockabill VI JPK 10.80
1 Saxon Senator X37
1 Fools Gold A35
1 Altair First 36.7
1 Storm J109
1 Joker 2 J109
1 Jigamaree J109
1 White Mischief J109
1 Bon Exemple XP33
     
2 Alpaca X-34
2 Ellida X-332
2 Equinox X-332
2 Coracle IV Olson 30
2 Jostler J92
2 Jedi J80
2 Rioja J80
2 Artful Dodger Elan 333
2 Slack Alice GK34
2 Harmony 1/2 Tonner
2 Checkmate XV Mod 1/2 Ton
2 Checkmate XVII Mod 1/2 Ton
     
3 Fusion Corby 25
3 Bad Company Sunfast 32
3 Stonehaven Racing Corby 25
3 Maximus X-302
3 Dux X-302
3 Luas HB31
3 Sea Hawk Sigma 33
3 Flyover Sigma 33 00D
3 Cri-Cri 1/4 ton
3 Powder Monkey Sigma 33
3 No Gnomes Nicholson 30
3 Cartoon 1/4 ton
3 Manzanita 1/4 ton
     
4 Jade J24
4 K25 Team Scandal J24
4 Jumpin' Jive J24
4 Hard on Port J24
4 Stouche J24
4 Johnny Bravo J24
4 Jana J24
4 Gala Racing J24
4 Ya Gotta Wanna J24
4 Jelignite J24
4 Bandit Mod Bolero 26'
4 Relativity Albin Express
4 Whistlin Dixie Impala 28
4 Raffles Sadler32
     
Non Spin Rebellion Lambay 60
Non Spin Nieulargo Grand Soleil 40
Non Spin Indulgence Dehler 365
Non Spin Aisling Dufour 365
Non Spin Sweet Dreams Sun Odyssey 36
Non Spin Surfdancer Elan 333
Non Spin Roaring Forthyes Beneteau 35s5
Non Spin Privateer Dufour 365
Non Spin Lady T Sun Odyssey 32i
Non Spin Loch Greine Hanse 31
Non Spin Aramis Contessa 33
Non Spin Cracker Trapper T250
Non Spin Speedy Gonzales Jaguar 27
Published in ICRA

All four major title-holders from last year’s Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) national championships will be in action in a fortnight when a fleet of over 60 boats from around Ireland will gather at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, Crosshaven to decide the 2017 winners.

The number is up slightly from 56 when ICRA published its provisional entry list on May 8. ICRA has said it will publish class divisions for the fleet closer to the event. In April, ICRA confirmed there would be no crew limit for the championships, and that the IRC Rule 22.4 would stay deleted after discussion earlier in the year on the topic at the ICRA conference. 

The closing date for entries is today, Friday 26th May and the €200 entry fee includes free berthing at the RCYC for the event including before and afterwards for visiting boats.

Checkmate half tonner ICRAHalf–tonner Checkmate (Dave Cullen) mastered last year's light airs at the Howth championships to win class two. Photo: Afloat.ie

As ICRA Boat of the Year, John Maybury’s Joker 2 from the Royal Irish YC will be the headline entry as the Dun Laoghaire yacht aims for a hat-trick victory in Class 1 following wins in 2015 and 2016. However, rival J109’s Storm from Rush Sailing Club and Jigamaree from the RIYC are amongst the pack likely to challenge Maybury’s form.

Class Zero champion Conor Phelan on Jump Juice will have home waters advantage this year against Scottish challenger Inis Mór while Howth YC’s David Cullen on Checkmate XV will be looking to repeat his home waters win last year further south on Cork harbour in Class Two. Ken Lawless and Sybil McCormacks’ Cartoon from the Royal Irish YC will defend their Class 3 title.

Joker J109 ICRADublin Bay based ICRA class one champion Joker 2 from will defend at Royal Cork. Photo: Afloat.ie

"A strong turnout from the host region is welcome and although overall numbers are down on 2016, the top boats have all committed to the championship,” said Simon McGibney, ICRA Commodore from Foynes. “There was also an unfortunate fixtures clash that we intend to avoid in future but for this season, under the circumstances we’re happy with quality over quantity.”

jump juiceConor Phelan’s Jump Juice will defend class zero title on home waters at Crosshaven. Photo: Afloat.ie

A new Coastal division will be introduced subject to demand and following the successful implementation in 2016, the Progressive ECHO system will now be standard for the ICRA nationals across all classes.

Class bands will be decided next week and will be announced together with proposals to address the fixtures congestion for future seasons.

The ICRA National Championships hosted by the Royal Cork Yacht Club will be sailed from Friday 9th to Sunday 11th June 2017.

Published in ICRA

As this Friday's entry deadline looms for the ICRA National Championships on June 9, Royal Cork Yacht Club organisers say they will finalise racing divisions closer to the start of the event and will endeavour to make the splits as competitive as possible. 'Currently, it looks like we will have Divisions 0, 1, 2, 3 and Non-Spinnaker for the event, says organiser Paul Tingle of Royal Cork.

Always a contentious issue, it will be interesting to see how ICRA split classes as some entries maybe in limbo, such as those between the small class zero and the large class one, made up mainly of J109’s.

At present, the Race Officers will be working in two race areas for the various divisions, with an In-Harbour and Outer-Harbour start area. The outer area is planned to be located outside Roches Point with a mix of race types including Windward/Leeward, Sausage/Triangle and Around-the-cans, while the inner harbour start area will cater for the Non-Spinnaker division as well as a rotating other division(s). Course type will be varied with the use of navigation and harbour marks inside and outside the harbour. Of course final confirmation and further details will be sent soon.

Tingle has issued an appeal for any entries for the Coastal Division to confirm their interest.

Published in ICRA

After the accelerating build-up to Olympic Medal success throughout the summer of 2016, there was hope in some sections of the Irish sailing community that the mood of 2017 might be different in pace. Tokyo 2020 still seemed very far away to everyone except the most dedicated Olympians. There appeared to be a feeling that 2017 should be the year for everyone else, and particularly for those who yearned for a less competitive enjoyment of boats and sailing. W M Nixon takes stock.

Once upon a time, we had seasons. Sailing wasn’t 12 months of the year, let alone 24/7. On the contrary, there were the rare old times of Opening Days and Closing Days (we’re talking annual sailing programmes here, not pubs), and Launching Suppers and Hauling Up Suppers and whatever, and not a sail to be seen at Christmas except for the rare oddball whose very rarity underlined the unusual nature of such a sight in the dead of winter.

But now we have wetsuits, and the effectively year-round programme at many sailing centres – in my own club at Howth, for instance, it has been continuous since April 1974 thanks to that Autumn’s introduction of the Frostbite series for the then new-fangled Lasers. And if you’re not actually out sailing yourself, there’s the means of keeping up with those who are, a classic case being the following of the tracker for this past week’s 500-mile Mini-en-Mai race by Tom Dolan, which had certain goggle-eyed adherents clicking-in at ungodly hours of the night to see how our man was doing.

It was a race being sailed at a flat-out pace and a level of concentration - despite a sleep-deprived physical and mental state – beyond the comprehension of most of the rest of us. Good luck to those who feel drawn to it personally, and can do it. But today, there’s an ISORA race from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire under way that is catering for all levels of involvement and commitment, and it has attracted a worthwhile starting line-up of 31 boats, encouraged by the welcoming efforts of ISORA Commodore Peter Ryan and his team.

holyhead harbour2Holyhead Harbour as sailing people know it – not as a utilitarian ferry port, but as a pleasant corner called Porth-y-Fellyn where there’s a sailing club, marina and boatyard

The word on the waterfront is that hyper-racers – people who expect three or four windward/leeward races per day at an intensely-run regatta – tend to dismiss this growing contemporary trend back towards classic Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association courses as sailing for people who can’t hack it in the frequent cut-and-thrust of artificial courses. But that’s to take a “one size fits all” attitude to sailing. If there’s one indisputable feature about our sometimes very odd sport, it’s the variety of the people involved in it – and that’s before you even consider the different type of boats.

On top of that, not only are there people who can get all their sailing enjoyment without needing to race at all, but there are grades of dedication in competition in sailing. This was particularly apparent a couple of years ago down at Dromineer on Lough Derg, when classes of Dragons, Flying Fifteens and Squibs descended on the place for the annual end-of-season Freshwater Challenge in October.

squibs dromineer3
Top Squibs from all over Ireland gearing themselves up for two days of intensive racing at Dromineer. But it emerged that for many of the local fleet, they weren’t into this sort of thing at all. Photo: Gareth Craig

There was an impressive fleet of top Squibs from all over Ireland out racing like fury on the lake. But there was also a substantial number of local Squibs that stayed in their berths. And it emerged that they hadn’t even entered the event in the first place. It seems that the Dromineer Squibs had been bought by people who saw them as handy and surprisingly comfortable little boats in which you could take the children, or more likely the grandchildren, out for a fun sail. And maybe you and a friend could do the occasional gentle summer’s evening club race for a bit of sociability. But the idea of committing to a frantic weekend of top competition was anathema.

Now while we’re not suggesting that the 31 boats which will be starting this morning in the ISORA Holyhead to Howth Race include a significant sector which are anti-competition, nevertheless there’s a distinctly relaxed atmosphere in some of the fleet in the knowledge that their abilities will be recognized by the use of Progressive ECHO handicap in tandem with the ruthless calculations of IRC.

The Number-Cruncher-in-Chief, Denis Kiely of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association, set to during the winter in his lair in Kinsale and ran the figures from all last year’s ISORA racing through his mincer to come up with an ECHO handicap (which is performance based) for boats of all kinds, and these figures were available to get things going this year.

inss cruiser racers4The Irish National Sailing School’s keelboat fleet includes (left to right) the Reflex 38 Lynx, the Elan Beaufort, and the J/109 Jedi which is doing today’s cross-channel race.
Thus we find that a boat like the Kenneth Rumball-skippered J/109 Jedi from the Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire is racing today on an IRC of 1.010 while her ECHO is 1.075, but against that the majestic Nicholson 58 Rebellion (John Hughes) has an IRC of 1.056, but her ECHO is only 0.999.

With Progressive ECHO, it’s a flexible figure which encourages regular participation, for if you’ve had a bad day at the races, next time out you’ll find your Progressive ECHO has progressed even further southwards.

It all seems too gentle to be worth even thinking about by those whose every thought is competitive. But for those who enjoy settling down for a long haul at sea, with the opportunity to test boat and crew in the gentlest possible manner against other craft, it all has a certain appeal.

ISORA Race3 Entrants5The fleet in today’s race shows interesting comparisons between IRC and Progressive ECHO handicaps. Some have not made the line, including the veteran ketch Maybird, but a late addition not listed is the Sunfast 3600 Bam (Conor Fogerty)
And it will be interesting on several levels, for not only have we boats of a definite cruiser-orientation whose crews are going along because ISORA has gone out of its way to offer the alternative of a developing handicap system which might reward their efforts, but up at the sharp end of the fleet there’ll be some very interesting performance comparisons to be made between hot boats as they race in what looks likely to be quite brisk conditions.

forty shades6Given a chance, she’ll fly – Neal Eatough’s Forty Shades is an M-Tec Open 40.

The expectation is of a fresh to strong sou’westerly which mercifully will back during the day to free the fleet up to lay the course to Dublin Bay, in fact it might free them so much that one of the more interesting newcomers, Neal Eatough’s Open 40 M-Tec Forty Shades, could be across in half a day.

Another boat which will revel in a freeing breeze is Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam – the Howth skipper is doing it two-handed with clubmate Robert Slator, and he sees the forecast weather pattern as providing them with a real chance.

sunfast3600 bam7Conor Fogerty’s successful Sunfast 3600 Bam! – a class winner in the RORC Caribbean 600 2016 – is a late entry, and he’ll be doing the race two-handed with Robert Slator

Inevitably the smart money will be on Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, but with no less than six J/109s in the mix, there’ll always be at least one potent representative of this hot class ready to pounce if there’s the slightest let-up in the pace on the JPK 10.80.

One of these J/109s is of course Stephen Tudor’s defending ISORA Overall Champion Sgrech from Pwllheli, a boat which is the very personification of ISORA’s cross-channel community, as her regular crew includes ISORA Commodore Peter Ryan, who is also a former Commodore of the National YC.

Rockabill VI JPK10808Paul O'Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI is one of the favourites for IRC success. Photo Afloat.ie

As anyone who has ever sailed on one of the Pwllheli boats will know, there’s always a smattering of Welsh spoken among the crew. Aboard Sgrech, says Peter, they speak little else except when they want to curse and swear, when they’ll tell you – with solemn faces – that there are no swear words in Welsh.

“Somehow we understand each other,” says Peter, “but Welsh is so different – not just from English, but from Irish too – that you could sail regularly with them for 45 years and still know very little of this strange tongue that they talk away in all the time”.

Perhaps it’s the underlying camaraderie of the sea which enables the communicational oddity which is Sgrech to be so effective, but then too, the shared enthusiasm of Stephen Tudor and Peter Ryan is infectious, and sometimes it spreads to the entire fleet.

j109 sgrech9Sgrech at full chat. When you’re sailing like this and something goes wrong, then you really do know if there are no swear words in Welsh....

Thus the Commodore of ISORA expected a bit of a party in Holyhead Sailing Club last night notwithstanding the prospect of a windward slug first thing this morning (start was at 0800hrs today, there’s a tracker) and equally, with everyone energised by the day’s freeing wind (DV), he confidently anticipates an even more boisterous gathering in the National tonight.

national yacht club10Welcome home. The National Yacht Club will be the venue for tonight’s post-race party.

The ghost of the great John Illingworth, who did so much for the development of offshore racing in the 1940s, ’50s ’60s and ’70s, would approve, as he thought an offshore race without a good party beforehand and an even better one afterwards was not really a proper offshore race at all. That said, Illingworth’s most famous boat, Myth of Malham, was notorious for her paucity of cleats. When a newcomer to the crew demanded to know where he should cleat the headsails, an old hand told him they didn’t cleat the headsail sheets in the masthead cutter rig, as they trimmed the sails all the time....

myth of malham11Myth of Malham. John Illingworth’s double Fastnet Race overall winner was renowned for her shortage of cleats.

In today’s cross-channel dash, I’ve no doubt there’ll be many boats where sheets are cleated while crews settle down to enjoy the satisfaction of the boat trimmed reasonably well and making progress without the prospect of having to make a lot of irritating tacks before the finish. It’s different strokes for different folks.

Earlier this week I found myself studying a boat which is about as different from what your average ISORA racer expects in a boat as is humanly possible. This is Ian Lipinski’s 8.65 metres Griffon which took overall line honours in the 500-mile Mini-en-Mai at La Trinite at 0508hrs Irish time yesterday morning.

mini griffon12It would be a day’s work for a crew of five to race her- yet Ian Lipinski sails his odd-looking and demanding Proto, the 8.65 metres Griffon, single-handed and he wins too.

Griffon is the current pace-setter in the Proto section (prototypes in other words), and she’s a veritable floating laboratory for every development imaginable, including being at the forefront in the testing of foils. Obviously she’s also showing an aversion to that traditional notion of sweetly hollow waterlines forward, as exemplified by the schooner America. And if you dismiss her forward hull shape as being like a Dutch barge, next time you’re near an International Dragon, take a look at her forward waterlines – you might be surprised.

But the thing that really strikes me about Griffon is the number of tasks that the lone skipper has to perform all on his own to keep this machine at optimum performance. The sailplan alone is a 24/7 challenge, and rig optimization is part of it. Add in two daggerboards whose deployment offers multiple choices. Then you must never forget the ideal positioning of the canting keel in ever-changing circumstances. All that done, you still have to sail and navigate the boat. And if on top of all that you can find time to fire off visual and verbal communications with shore and sponsors, joy is unconfined....

Contrast that with the mood that might prevail aboard one of the heftier and more luxurious contenders in today’s Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire. The boat is nicely in trim, and it’s up to the helmsman to keep her there, and if it’s the autohelm as is now permitted, so be it. Alert as ever, the crew noticed a useful backing of the wind a while back, and sheets were adjusted accordingly and then cleated home. My word, but we’re racing keenly. And can that clock really be right? If so, it’s time for Nooners...

Published in W M Nixon
Page 11 of 37

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