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Interest in keelboat racing is increasing. Cruiser racing is on the way back! So says the Royal Cork Yacht Club’s Rear Admiral for Keelboats, Kieran O’Connell, writes Tom MacSweeney.

Clubs around the coast have experienced a fall-off in racing numbers at cruiser events over the past few years. ‘Keelboats,’ a traditional Class description, have changed fundamentally in design as cruiser/racers have evolved since they were first labelled as ‘keelboat racing’.

“There was a decline, numbers have been down, but this season there has been an improvement and an upsurge in interest,” O’Connell told the prizewinning club racers (See Afloat's Gallery here) at the annual presentation of prizes when he pointed to the turn-out for the Autumn series/October League and what has been a surprisingly big entry for the November/December Winter League which is still underway at the club, in which an average 30 yachts are on the water.

OLI D2 8751Cruiser racing on the up – Cork Harbour has seen strong turnouts for its Winter sailing season. Photo: Bob Bateman

“This is encouraging and indicates that interest and participation in cruiser racing is on the up. It has turned around after a few difficult years.”

Kieran O’Connell is also Commodore of the South Coast Offshore Racing Association (SCORA) which combines Southern clubs planning events for the annual sailing calendar.

To general applause, he told the RCYC cruiser racers that he intended to stay in office to steer ‘keelboat’ racing for a while yet. That is good news for the cruiser racing, as he has put a lot of work into orchestrating its revival.

More in the weekly Sailing Column in the Cork Evening Echo.

Published in ICRA

He was in the key role of Commodore when Dublin Bay Sailing Club was successful in implementing the changeover from pier to Committee Boat starts which involved the complete re-structuring of its course programme in the Bay, and many other novel features. And he was right there when the Irish Cruiser Racing Association came into being as a very successful pioneering project to represent and work on behalf of one of the largest segments of the Irish sailing community, a sector whose unique needs had never been directly addressed before.

Then when Ireland became a force to be reckoned with in the biennial International Commodore’s Cup series in the Solent, he was a member of the support team which contributed to the smooth running of campaigns which saw our sailors achieve the overall victory in 2010 and 2014. Yet at the same time he enjoys his own active and varied sailing career in a wide variety of boats at a remarkable range of locations. W M Nixon gets together with a man who has been central to fundamental and successful changes in Irish sailing during the past 25 years and more.

Back around 2001, it was a vigorous time for Irish sailing. The new marina in Dun Laoghaire had recently opened, sailors and boat numbers were increasing at all centres, and new systems in established administrations were being created to meet a soaring demand for better facilities and race management.

Dun Laoghaire had become a very happening place, so one Saturday morning early in the Spring before the new season was properly under way, we sailed our Howth-based cruiser across Dublin Bay to the newly in-marina Royal Irish YC to grab a spot of bar lunch, have a bit of banter with the locals, and inhale the atmosphere in what had become Irish sailing’s liveliest place.

mac lir2At the handing over of the new Dublin Bay SC Committee Boat Mas Lir, sponsored by Dublin Port. Commodore Fintan Cairns is fifth from right, with DBSC Honorary Secretary Donal O’Sullivan on his right and Captain Enda Connellan, CEO Dublin Port, on his left.

Berthed beside the club was the newest addition to the local fleet. It was Dublin Bay Sailing Club’s recently acquired Committee Boat, the catamaran Mac Lir sponsored by Dublin Port. This distinctive purpose-designed vessel was the symbol of the changeover to a much-greater emphasis on Committee Boat starts for all DBSC races, which in turn had required a radical re-design of DBSC courses.

For a club which had been central to Dun Laoghaire racing since 1884, it was a huge changeover in the way of doing things. But thanks to the quietly persuasive powers of DBSC Commodore Fintan Cairns, it had been achieved with skill and general approval, and this new way was going to be fully inaugurated the following week.

There’d been nobody aboard Mac Lir as we headed into the welcoming berth at the RIYC. But as we departed in good cheer, somebody was busy aboard, bent over at various jobs on the afterdeck. He straightened up as we headed seaward, and gave us a cheery wave and called a greeting. It was Commodore Fintan Cairns. And we thought it was altogether typical of the man, that he should be quietly checking out the club’s new boat and her systems himself, with no fuss or bother.

That’s the way it is with Fintan Cairns. He is a superb delegator and a quietly brilliant persuader. But when something that benefits best from personal attention comes up on the agenda, he’s ready and willing to look after it to his own satisfaction, and without fuss.

He does all this in such an affable and low key way, ready for everyone with a quiet greeting and his unflamboyant gift of friendship and genuine personal interest, that we all feel we know him well. At first glance, he seems a man of sombre demeanour. But his face lights up with good conversation and effective problem-solving discussion, and the real Fintan Cairns, bubbling with ideas and receptive to the notions of others, soon emerges.

So when the sunny images of the first race of the well-supported Turkey Shoot 2017 for the large DBSC fleet appeared a couple of weeks ago on to blow away the November gloom in a splash of bright colour, it was recalled that this was yet another Fintan Cairns-inspired idea.

nich32 dbsc3A flash of very welcome brightness in November. Such is the enthusiasm for the Fintan Cairns-inspired annual Turkey Shoot series in Dublin Bay that even a vintage Nicholson 32 is enthusiastically involved. Photo David O’Brien/Afloat

And he was right there for 2017’s Turkey Shoot, on the newer DBSC Committee Boat Freebird, ensuring that the most interesting courses were being set, and seeing to it that everyone was finished by 1230pm in time for that precious focus of concentrated après-sailing socializing which knocks for six the dark prospect of encroaching winter.

It’s a good example of the continuing success of a Fintan Cairns vision for making the Irish sailing scene more interesting. But in contemplating this success, we suddenly realized we didn’t really know Fintan Cairns at all. When somebody becomes as quietly important in Irish sailing as this, albeit in a very low key way which is only appreciated by true sailors, it’s intriguing to find out a bit more about their back-story, and how it has brought them to our sport with such a fresh attitude, receptive to new ideas, and central to Irish sailing’s development.

Although his earliest childhood was in Kilmacanogue in County Wiclow, he’d soon become a south Dubliner through and through. His grandfather owned a furniture-making factory with a large retail outlet in the city, and had a boating interest with an early glassfibre motor-cruiser on the Shannon. Young Fintan was mildly enthusiastic about boats himself, and enjoyed using them on family holidays to the sun. But his main interest in boyhood and early manhood was in rugby, and he went on to play and coach with Palmerstown.

cairns carrick4First interest afloat – the grandfather’s early GRP motor-cruiser at Carrick-on-Shannon

cairns elba5Boy racer – a very young Fintan Cairns gets a taste for sport afloat on a family holiday in Elba in 1962

However, an acquaintanceship with Philip Smith blossomed into friendship with a sharing of Smith’s interest in sailing with his Dufour 27 Jasmin, and they became involved with Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. They gradually were drawn into Cruiser 3 racing with the big fleet with Dublin Bay SC, but a life-changing experience was a cruise with this little boat round Land’s End and up the English Channel as far as Cowes, before crossing the channel to Jersey and then returning to Dublin Bay, with more confidence in their sailing and seagoing ability accruing with every passing mile. Sailing was now definitely the Number One leisure interest.

Back home again, they involved themselves with Cruisers 3 racing with even more enthusiasm, and Fintan became the Jasmin representative on the Cruisers 3 Committee. As his administrative and negotiating abilities became evident, he was soon appointed Class 3 Captain, and that in turn involved membership of the DBSC Committee.

Meanwhile, in shore life he’d made it clear that the furniture business was not for him. Instead, he trained as an accountant, and in time he made his career as the financial controlling partner in a private yet substantial builder of houses. Having made this his working interest, it probably explains why he is willing to get into the running of almost any organisation in sailing provided it doesn’t involve the maintenance of bricks and mortar……

cairns jasmin6Getting a taste for proper sailing – the young Fintan Cairns on Philip Smith’s Dufour 27 Jasmin during their key cruise to Cowes and the Channel Islands

Shore life had settled down with a happy marriage to Hilary and two sons, while the Smith-Cairns sailing partnership with Jasmin prospered further with the quietly enthusiastic support of old friend Gay Moloney. But with his increasingly active participation in the DBSC Committee and broadening of his already wide range of sailing friends, other sailing and crewing opportunities for Fintan Cairns presented themselves, and for several decades he was extraordinarily active in a wide variety of craft ranging from the International Dragon to Class 1 offshore racers, which was to eventually include his organisation of several notable campaigns with chartered cruise-racers in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

At the top end of racing at home, he learned from the masters such as Tony O’Gorman in the Dragons, he went to the Dragon glamour events with folk like John Finnegan and his classic Jane, and he honed his offshore skills aboard Frank Elmes’ Marissa in major events like the Round Ireland Race, while Dublin Bay and Howth racing were also further experienced with Jack Kirwan in the Ruffian 23 and Tony Brown in the S&S 30 Sunshot. In another interesting twist, he became the de facto crew boss aboard the Tripp 40 Infinity jointly-owned by Nobby Reilly and Alan

cairns jane7Fintan Cairns crewing John Finnegan’s classic wooden Dragon Jane in the Regatta Royale in Cannes

cairns jane8Despite being a classic of a certain age, on a good day Jane could have more modern international competition tucked in neatly astern

While the boat was based in Howth – a port with which he’d many links – the two owners were so busy that at times there’d be a preponderance of DBSC people in the crew. But although Fintan had been a coach in rugby, he didn’t feel he yet had the experience and skills to do the same in sailing, so when it was decided that Infinity would aim for major events rather than longterm participation in club series, he called on the services of David Harte for the intensive coaching of Infinity’s crew, and has remained a David Harte enthusiast ever since.

Ashore, his progress up the administrative ladder saw him becoming Rear Commodore and then Vice Commodore of DBSC. As a DBSC Flag Officer he was entitled to Honorary Membership of all the waterfront clubs, and he increasingly found he was using the Royal Irish YC as a convenient base for sailing meetings. He felt comfortable there and they were comfortable with him, and he was soon to make the RIYC his home club.

cairns infinity9The Tripp 40 Infinity. Having become crew boss “by accident”, Fintan Cairns became enthusiastic about the special talent shown by David Harte in coaching the team

Inevitably one of the most demanding positions in Irish sailing - Commodore of Dublin Bay SC - was being seen by many as his next step. That was despite the fact that he’d quietly made it clear that once the marina was up and running, DBSC would have to modernize its functioning to match the growing new demand. But he got on well with long-serving DBSC Honorary Secretary Donal O’Sullivan, and he had good working relations with other major figures in Dublin Bay sailing administration. Well before the turn of the century it was clear that DBSC was going to embrace to the full the fresh possibilities which the 21st Century and Dun Laoghaire’s marina would offer, and Fintan Cairns was going to be the man keeping things cool in the hot seat of Commodore, while being fully appreciative and supportive of the long tradition of volunteering which keeps the enormous Dublin Bay SC machine up and running.

cairns commodore10Fintan Cairns during his years as Commodore of Dublin Bay SC

In addition to organising the funding of the new Committee Boat with sponsorship from Dublin Port, with whom DBSC was in any case in negotiations about the organisation of Dublin Bay traffic lanes and how their own sailing area could best accommodate the new reality of greatly increased shipping in and out of the port, Commodore Cairns and his Committee had to address how best to re-shape their courses to maximize the benefit of having the Committee Boat.

It was now that we saw the genius of his talent for delegation, for instead of looking within his own team, together with them he turned to Tim Goodbody, one of DBSC keenest and most successful racers, but one whose own administrative talents had been absorbed by being Commodore of the Royal Alfred YC when it was at a particularly active stage, and then Commodore of the RIYC.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Despite his long and trophy-winning sailing career in Dublin Bay as it had been, Tim Goodbody brought to the setting of the new courses an incisively fresh approach which reflected his successful national and international experiences.

In putting all this in train, Fintan Cairns is refreshingly frank about his readiness to learn from the experiences of other sailing areas. “Why reinvent the wheel?” is his attitude, and it was his observing of the success of catamarans as committee boats at major events in France which led to their introduction in Dublin Bay, while the style of the clear new colour-printed waterproof DBSC Race Programme based on Tim Goodbody’s work drew its finished appearance to some extent from the programme at Howth YC. There, they’d had to move to Committee Boat Starts well clear of the harbour after it had been re-developed in the 1980s as a sailing/fishing port complete with separate marina at one side and fish dock at the other, with specialist areas of activity clearly defined.

cairns at tiller11From being crew boss, Fintan Cairns has long since graduated to being a helmsman

The new course setup got fully on stream in Dublin Bay through 2001’s regular programme. It was well able to cope with increasing boat numbers, though at the height of the economic boom years seven or so years later, sage heads such as Donal O’Sullivan reckoned they’d just about reached optimum numbers, of which cruiser-racers were far and away the largest group.

This fact of sailing life was being replicated in sailing centres throughout Ireland, and in 2002, when he had barely had time to get used to having finally retired as DBSC Commodore, Fintan Cairns found himself being approached from Cork by Denis Kiely of Kinsale and Jim Donegan of Crosshaven. Thoughtful sailors who already ran the South Coast Offshore Racing Association, they reckoned that the very specific needs of the rapidly-growing cruiser-racer fleets in Ireland required their own dedicated national association which would defend their interests with other sailing bodies and the national authority, and would hope to organise a national championship to provide recognised national titles of real status for this very significant sector of the sailing population.

The creation of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association began in a very low key way in the autumn of 2002 with an exploratory meeting between Denis Kiely, Jim Donegan and Fintan Cairns in the Granville Hotel in Waterford, and the first conference was held in February 2003 in Kilkenny. While numbers of cruiser-racers were large, their specific locations were widespread, but there was simply no denying the numerical strength and majority power of the Cork-Dublin axis. To get what was then a very novel concept up and running, this strength of numbers had to be acknowledged, and the first National Championship in 2003 reflected this, as it was staged in Howth.

icra nats12ICRA Nats 2017 at Crosshaven. First raced in 2003, this championship has become a major annual fixture. Photo Robert Bateman

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

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

With championships every year at different venues, they sometimes shared the event with established regattas. But increasingly this important national championship was seen purely as a stand-alone happening, and a strong element of continuity was required in the administration, so the first Commodore was expected to serve for a demanding six years.

After six years of growth and consolidation, with the hotly-contested national championship successfully staged at a range of venues, Fintan Cairns was able to hand over the Commodore’s role to Barry Rose of Cork in 2009. But the Dublin Bay man found his activities with ICRA were far from over, as the Association had for some years additionally taken on the management of the Irish team in the biennial international Commodore’s Cup. The quiet Fintan Cairns managerial style provided the ideally serene background to the sometimes very heated action on the water, where Ireland at the height of the economic boom years was putting out the boat big time.

Nevertheless Fintan Cairns is quick to point out that without the determined and generous owners and hyper-keen crews – however challengingly colourful they might be – these remarkable campaigns simply wouldn’t have taken place, and it was the duty of the management team to provide the essential background support and every other quietly-provided service they could think of, while high-lighting and encouraging the primary role of the owners and sailors.

Ireland finally won the Commodore’s Cup in 2010 after being within an ace of it in 2006. The win in 2010 was achieved in heavy weather conditions in which the young Irish crews handled their boats exceptionally well in the severe conditions, a matter of special pride to Fintan Cairns. And in the rapidly deteriorating economic circumstances of the time, ICRA’s very successful implementation of their programme at home and internationally had been a beacon of hope for all Irish sailing in 2010, and they became the acclaimed Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year”.

But with the economy fallen off a cliff in 2011, a defence in 2012 simply wasn’t viable. However, in 2014 a challenge was assembled primarily under the leadership of Anthony O’Leary of Cork, but Fintan Cairns was again there to provide Team Manager Barry Rose with support, and they secured the services of noted tactical expert/met guru Mike Broughton as on-site adviser. The daily team briefings and de-briefings in Cowes in John Corby’s offices played their role in the re-taking of the Commodore’s Cup by a very convincing margin in that memorable 2014 series.

commodores cup team13The hyper-successful Commodore’s Cup team of 2014, captained by Anthony O’Leary, celebrate on the lawns of the Royal yacht Squadron

But while this was a highlight of Fintan Cairns’ international involvement, he’d remained active with Dublin Bay SC back home, and before standing down as Commodore he’d put in place a regular winter series, The Turkey Shoot, which he unashamedly based on the Brass Monkey series in Howth which had been running for years, and in which he had frequently competed.

However, while the Howth series has moved on a little from its light-hearted early approach – “anyone making a protest will not be eligible for a prize - with the current inclusion of serious IRC classes, the Turkey Shoot over which Cairns continues to maintain a direct personal interest is determinedly user-friendly, and of course with Dun Laoghaire’s huge home fleet, it effortlessly achieves significant numbers on Sunday mornings in the run-up to Christmas.

dbsc freebird14DBSC’s Freebird – Fintan Cairns and his team put to sea, November 2017. Photo David O’Brien/Afloat

But although he gives time to personally running it from the Committee Boat, for the past six years Fintan Cairns’ own sailing has taken a new turn, as he has finally become a yacht owner. Admittedy it is with four other regular shipmates in a five-way syndicate including longtime sailing friends such as Denis Hewitt and Paul Bradley, all of whom bring special skills to the maintenance and running of the boat. But then, this is one very special boat, as she is Raptor, originally Aztec, one of Mark Mills’ earliest designs, and built in 1996 in Malahide by David Harte and Garrett Connolly.

With such talents involved at a key period in their individual careers, Raptor is arguably a modern classic. She’s a big-hearted boat, and though a smidgin under 32ft in overall length, she seems much bigger, and certainly has a challenging rating. But then her loving owners have lavished all sorts of goodies on her such as a carbon mast, while sailmaker Des McWilliam has provided special attention for a team with which he empathises well, and there’s always original builder David Harte generous with helpful advice when it’s needed too.

Thus with the annual DBSC Turkey Shoot the only event in which Fintan Cairns is now administratively involved, he has stood well back from the hurly-burly of the year round commitment which was required with Dublin Bay SC – where Commodore Chris Moore presides over the annual Prize-Giving, a mega event - while ICRA is now several changes down the line since the hectic times of rapid growth when he was Commodore from 2003 to 2009.

His successor Barry Rose of Crosshaven having been succeeded by Nobby Reilly of Howth who in turn was succeeded by Simon McGibney of Foynes, it’s the successful Foynes skipper who will preside next year over the ICRA Nationals at Galway from 15th to 18th August in a linkup with the WIORA Nationals 2018, a combination which was last seen at Tralee in 2013.

It offers a potentially extremely busy season for a very active younger crew, but for the senior sailors with Raptor, user-friendly rather than heads-on hyper-competitive events is what they now seek. The boat operates in a manageable setup, as Fintan Cairns – having retired from business two years ago – has moved from his south Dublin suburban home, and he and Hilary have settled comfortably into a fourth floor apartment overlooking Dun Laoghaire Harbour where Raptor is within easy reach. Fintan is expected to co-ordinate the running of the boat, as his fellow syndicators have designated him the team’s desk jockey while they get on with their various specialist tasks in her maintenance.

cairns raptor15jpgRaptor – a modern classic, much-loved by her syndicate of five owners. Originally Aztec, she was designed by Mark Mills and built by David Harte and Garrett Connolly in 1996 for Peter Beamish

They’ll continue to do the Dublin Bay SC Thursday night racing, but as far as the big events are concerned, there’s a real change of pace in recent years which will be emphasised in 2018, as they’ll be doing Volvo Cork Week in July, but with new enthusiasm in the Coastal Division for the first time, and with old friend Barry Rose aboard with them. And then, as there’s just a chance that their hero Davy Harte might join them if they can get to Schull, Calves Week at the beginning of August - that perfect mixture of sport, holiday and a lovely rural setting - could well come up on the agenda.

For a young-hearted crew with decidedly senior sailors, it’s an ideal easily-implemented programme. And with his many (and continuing) quietly-made yet very effective contributions to the development of Irish sailing for more than three decades, it’s a rich fabric of sailing enjoyment which Fintan Cairns and his wide circle of friends and shipmates will very deservedly enjoy.

Published in W M Nixon

The 2018 ICRA Cruiser National and WIORA West Coast Championships have been launched at the Port of Galway offices.

The national cruiser championships will be organised by Galway Bay Sailing Club and will combine both the Irish Cruiser Racing top event and the West Coast Championships between the 15th and 18th of August, a later date than normal for the annual event and the first time for Galway Bay.

Captain Brian Sheridan from Port of Galway has arranged free cranage and berthage for the duration of the event.

The organising committee for the championships have already launched several very keenly priced entry packages starting with a super early bird from now until the first of February 2018.

Announcing the launch of the super early bird packages, which start at €175, the event chairperson, Martin Breen said: “We are looking forwarding to welcoming boats from far and wide to Galway for ICRA Cruiser Nationals and WIORA West Coast Championships 2018."

"Galway is one of the country’s most vibrant spots during the summer and we are confident that the arrival of a large fleet to Galway for the event will add an exciting extra dimension to the city.” said Mr. Breen. With regard to entering the championships he also said, “We would strongly encourage skippers to avail of the extremely good value entry fees now available and also to book their accommodation early”.

ICRA/WIORA Commodore Simon McGibney said “We are very excited that the ICRA Nationals are coming to Galway for the first time. Galway has a reputation for organising great events and the organising committee is working hard to bring the Galway seal of greatness to our event."

He also added that: "the event also brings forward an opportunity for the Cruiser Racing fleet to contribute to the development of top level racing in areas of the country that are often in need of that extra kick to attract more people to top level racing competition. We expect that these championships will be supported by our fleet and this will contribute to the national effort to promote sailing in Ireland'.

The committee is already very well advanced in their planning and looking forward to sharing more details in the coming weeks.

The Notice of Race is now available for download below.

Published in ICRA
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The Irish Team Racing Association (ITRA) has been one of the first organisations to congratulate two new IRL International Judges appointed at the recent World Sailing Conference in Mexico.

Both successful candidates have close links with team racing.

Cxema Pico is a leading Irish team racing umpire and current Treasurer of the Irish Team Racing Association. He is also well known for his activities with ICRA. Cxema is based in Greater Dublin.

Chris Lindsay, from Carrickfergus, is a leading umpire in the UK, where he is doing research for his PhD. He is currently Hon. Treasurer of BUSA.

Both Cxema and Chris are actively involved in the training of new umpires and judges.

This brings the number of Irish International Judges to five.

The process of qualification is long and involves attending an international seminar, passing a rigourous exam and being favourably evaluated by other judges at a number of international events, both here and abroad.

The sport of team racing, in which several teams of 2, 3 or 4 boats, compete in a series of team on team races, is preparing to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of its invention, which took place in Dun Laoghaire as a result of an Irish Dinghy Racing Association initiative.

Umpires play a key role in ensuring racing is fair. The depth of rule knowledge, and the speed with which umpires apply the rules seems to be a useful basis for the development and maintenance of many of the skills required by judges. All of the Irish IJs are actively involved in various forms of umpired racing - team, match, fleet or radio-controlled sailing at national and international.

Published in Team Racing

There was another super race in the O'Leary Insurances sponsored Winter Sailing League at Royal Cork Yacht Club today writes Bob Bateman.

Sunny (most of the time) with wind 20 to 25 knots from north north west was a scenario where some skippers felt better sailing without spinnakers.

Course was 65 on RCYC course card. Following a Boat start the course was no 13s, no 11s, no10p, Corkbeg s, cage p, w4 s, finish at cage.

The Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo skippered by Denis Murphy led the fleet and looked majestic upwind but had difficulty holding off the Durcan/O'Shea 1720 sportsboat off the wind but neverthelss won today's all-in IRC race.

Tom Crosbie in No Excuses again got a good start was very steady and did enought to finish second and hold the overall IRC lead. 

Coracle Kieran Collins with son Mel on helm put in a virtuoso performance (full on) enough to finish third in the all in IRC division.

Given the number of white sail boats competing there are now two White Sail classes in the all-in start.

Scroll down for photo gallery of today's race.

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Published in Royal Cork YC

Royal Cork Yacht Club had a great turnout for the opening race of its O'Leary Insurances Winter League for sailing cruisers in Cork Harbour today writes Bob Bateman.

Race officers Clem and Wendy Mc Elligott got the 32 boats – up 50% up on last year– away in W/NW winds from 11 to 14 knots but only at the second attempt at a start and also under an X flag.

The boats sailed were to sail a full course of: Corkbeg no10p, E2s, 8s, 5s, Cage p, E4s and a Cage finish but the course was shortened at Cage mark after the first round.

Coracle skipperd by Kieran Collins led at the weather mark but lost lead to three 1720s sportsboats on the run downwind. The J109 Jelly Baby helmed by Brian Jones also broke through.

The cruisers returned to RCYC marina with Laser and Topper Leagues also starting today, providing a great winter sailing spectacle.

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Published in Royal Cork YC

The best was kept til last and the closing races of the CH Marine Autumn League today in Cork Harbour featured some fine sailing conditions writes Bob Bateman.

Winds were force four from the north/north west on a beautiful Autumn day at Crosshaven.

Classes one, two and three raced outside the harbour. The White Sail fleet and the Sportsboat fleets raced inside the harbour.

Despite two big storms this month, Race Officer RCYC Peter Crowley got ten races sailed and two discards applied.

Conor Phelan's Ker 37 Jump Juice was the clear winner with nine race wins in IRC One. Paul & Deirdre Tingle's X34 Alpaca was second on 17–points with K Dorgan/J Losty third in the Beneteau 36.7 Altair. Eight competed. 

In IRC Two, Kieran Collins Coracle IV, an Olson 30 won from Ted Crosbie's X302 No Excuse. Third was the Sunfast 32 Bad Company (Desmond, Ivers & Deasy). Ten competed.

CH Marine 5 2490Even though, past champion Fools Gold from Waterford Harbour was not competing this year, there was good support from the travelling Dunmore East fleet with Robert Marchant's Fulmar Fever, a Fastnet Race entrant, competing in IRC Three. Photo: Bob Bateman

In IRC Three, Dave Lane and Sinead Enright's J24, YaGottaWanna was the clear winner in the ten boat fleet but second  and third were tied on the same 24 points. Cracker, a Trapper T250 skippered by Denis Byrne won through on the tie-break rule. Third was David Marchant's Sigma 33 Flyover from Waterford Harbour.

Prior to going afloat today, Port of Cork gave a briefing to sailors about navigating in the harbour and the importance of keeping keeping clear of commercial shipping.

The series included an ICRA training initiative for the fleet that comprised a North Sails Ireland rig set-up advice and video of today's racing captured by drone and this was viewed post racing at Royal Cork Yacht Club.

As usual, SCORA in in the process of computing results from this CH Marine League, together with the April league in Kinsale, Calves Week at Schull Harbour and the Cobh to Blackrock Race to declare overall season prizes.

Full results are here. Today's photo gallery below. Prizegiving pictures to follow after tonight's prizegiving at RCYC.

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chmarine meaco awardwinning dehumidifiers

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Published in CH Marine Chandlery

Another successful annual IRC Congress meeting was held in early October in the popular sailing venue and race destination of St Malo on the northern French coast. Forty delegates from as far afield as Japan and the USA came together to talk about the International Rating Certificate (IRC) racing around the world, technical development and ideas on encouraging participation in yacht racing generally.

In 2018, there is the exciting prospect of the IRC European Championship combined with the RORC’s Commodores’ Cup in Cowes in June, closely followed by the joint IRC and ORC Hague Offshore World Championship in the Netherlands in July. These events set the high standard for IRC racing in 2018, along with the major offshore classic races that continue to be scored using IRC.

However, the IRC Congress never loses sight of the core of the IRC fleet who are taking part in club racing around the world every week and much talk at Congress was how to further encourage this. Everyone agreed that exciting events drive participation. This is demonstrated by the record four minutes for the Rolex Fastnet Race entry to be fully subscribed and the large number of boats that entered the Offshore Worlds straight after registration opened. Clubs were encouraged to put on events that provide an escape from the stresses of modern life, with a variety of courses, and some longer races with interesting destinations.

The IRC Technical Committee has been working on technical developments including the rating of boats equipped with foils, and a longer term review on rating ‘code zero’ sails. IRC has always been fast to embrace new developments in yacht design, while as far as possible retaining the characteristic simplicity of the IRC Rule and avoiding too much complexity for the majority of owners.

Published in RORC
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The RORC has instigated a new format to include the Commodores' Cup, a Corinthian team-based event within an IRC fleet racing championship which is open to amateurs and professionals. 

Ireland has twice won the Cup under the burgee of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association. Captain Anthony O'Leary of Royal Cork Yacht Club and his three boat teams sailed to victory in  2010 and 2014 but inspite of plans to field two teams to defend the Cup in 2016, no Irish defence materialised.

As announced earlier this year, the Cowes-based championship will be held from 8-16th June and will follow the successful Commodores' Cup race format, with a variety of different courses ranging from inshore, coastal and offshore - 10 races in all using the Spinlock IRC rating system.

It still remains to be seen, however, if these innovations are enough to galvanise Irish cruiser-racers into mounting a campaign for the Cup in eight month's time.

New for 2018 are the following:

1. Competitors wishing to enter the Commodores' Cup are invited to create teams of three boats with a rating between 0.995 and 1.270 with a max DLR of 210

2. Teams can represent a club, a region or a nation. For national representation, authorisation may be required from the appropriate MNA

3. The Commodores' Cup maintains its Corinthian ethos with only one professional sailor allowed on each boat

4. Boats that race with two females or two crew under 25, or one female and one under 25, are allowed an extra crew member

5. There is no crew weight limit, only the crew number limit on their IRC rating certificate.

The Notice of Race for the 2018 IRC European Championship, incorporating the Commodores' Cup, is now available.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) welcomes expressions of interest for the event, and online entry will be open from Monday 8th January 2018.

Published in Commodores Cup
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This weekend sees perhaps the last of the 2017 season’s 'Major' open events on Dublin Bay in the form of the DMYC Kish Race on Sunday.

The warning signal will be at 10.55 a.m. from the Dublin Bay Hut on the West Pier and the intended course is Kish to Port, and back.

Afloat's report and photos from the 2016 race are here.

Unusually, the race is run on Scratch ECHO, providing two features, one being it is open to all comers and the organisers will find a handicap somewhere for all yachts, the other being, that well practiced crews who might have adjusted handicaps will find they can race on the boats original published rating.

'The emphasis is on participation for all suitable yachts, and the DMYC hopes to attract entries for racer, recreation and cruiser sailors alike, as the “cut and thrust” of racing is not a feature of the event, DMYC's Rear–Commodore Neil Colin told

The event drew approximately 50 entries last year, and DMYC hopes to better this entry on Sunday. White Sails Classes (& non spinnaker) are especially welcome.

Entries can be made online here

Published in DMYC
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