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Displaying items by tag: Lambs Week

It can sometimes take quite a bit of tough windward slugging to get to the islands out in the Atlantic off the Connacht coast. But those boats that do are usually well rewarded, as rain-bearing clouds from the west will often pass over the lower-elevation islands without discharging a drop of rain. Yet when they come up against the steep and spectacular mainland peaks of Connemara such as the Twelve Bens, the in-cloud moisture content builds even further, and the taps are turned on big time.

Thus it’s said that Leenane at the head of Killary Fjord has at least twice the rainfall of Inshbofin off the north Connemara coast. And the Aran Islands across the mouth of Galway Bay can be dry with flickers of sunshine while the City of the Tribes at the head of the bay is getting hosed.

Unpromising-looking conditions as the fleet manoeuvre before starting the passage out to the islands, with rain gathering itself over The BurrenUnpromising-looking conditions as the fleet manoeuvre before starting the passage out to the islands, with rain gathering itself over The Burren

Certainly this August’s notably damp Bank Holiday Weekend put all these theories to the test. For although rainfall was general at times, the substantial fleet in Galway Bay SC’s annual Lamb’s Week jaunt out to Aran, with a pursuit rally round the islands once they’d got to Kilronan on Inishmor, not only experienced drier weather in the islands, but on their return passage they brought the sunshine with them right into the marina at Galway Docks as it emerged from that day’s precipitation quota.

With entries drawn in from as far as Clew Bay to the north and the Shannon Estuary to the south, ace handicapper Fergal Lyons of GBSC had his work cut out setting the complete range of start times aimed at bringing everyone to the finish at once. He works from times recorded going out to Kilronan from the first night stop of Rossaveal, and in 2021 he was right on the money with them all completing the islands circuit in a tight bunch with just 30 seconds between first and second.

If Atlantic sailing is your thing, then the three Aran Islands offer some interesting options. In 2021, the Lambs went round Inishmor and Inishmean. This year, the course was Inishmean and InisheerIf Atlantic sailing is your thing, then the three Aran Islands offer some interesting options. In 2021, the Lambs went round Inishmor and Inishmean. This year, the course was Inishmean and Inisheer

But last year, in more settled weather, the course was round Inishmor and Inshmean, whereas this year they’d a more inshore route round Inishmean and Inisheer, and there were boats involved which hadn’t arrived via Rossaveal. But it still provided good sport and close times generally in a brisk westerly.
The first boat got away at 12 noon, with other larger and faster craft starting up to 40 minutes later. The fleet headed south through Gregory Sound, encountering challenging seas and very poor visibility. This didn't take away from the racing with several boats engaging in close-proximity sailing as they approached the open ocean. Two options emerged at the back of the Islands, with some boats hugging the jagged coastline while others went further out to sea. The outer route proved the better choice, with steadier winds and better angles.

As the fleet approached Finis Rock at the Southeast end of Inisheer, spinnakers were flying and the skies brightened briefly. A gybe around the mark consolidated the fleet, and they embarked on a close-hauled route along the Northern coasts of Inisheer and Inismean. As they approached Straw Rock on Inishmor, the pursuit handicap format showed its successful mysteries as the main fleet caught up on the smaller boats that had a significant head start.

Winner by three minutes in 2022, second by 30 seconds in 2021 – Jackie Cronin (RWIYC, Kilrush) was entirely family crewed on his X332Winner by three minutes in 2022, second by 30 seconds in 2021 – Jackie Cronin (RWIYC, Kilrush) was entirely family crewed on his X332

In the end last year’s runner-up, Jackie Cronin (RWIYC) on Jimmy Bum, an X332 from Kilrush crewed by Caoimhe, Niamh, Jack and Donagh Cronin, had stormed his way up through the fleet and finished 3 minutes ahead at the Killeany Buoy. The next five boats finished within three minutes of each other. Anton Morrin on Viking Lass, a vintage Ron Holland-designs little Eygthene 24 from Galway Bay SC, was unlucky not to maintain the lead to the end, having started first and sailed very well. But they managed to hold on for a very respectable second place. John Gillivan in Popje, a Sigma 33 from Mayo SC in Clew Bay, came across the line third, bringing honour and glory to Westport.

The event made for a 24-minute radio documentary. John Mulligan of Galway Bay FM interviews the Galway Harbour Master, Captain Brian Sheridan The fleet went on in due course to round out the Cruise-in-Company in Galway Docks, bringing that cheering evening sunshine with them, and coming in to a welcome from Galway Bay FM’s John Mulligan who put together a 24-minute radio documentary about it all, well boosted by Q&A sessions with such folk as Galway Harbour Master Brian Sheridan and GBSC Commodore Johnny Shorten, who both made full use of the opportunity to promote sailing and the need for improved facilities at all the main centres around Galway Bay.The event made for a 24-minute radio documentary. John Mulligan of Galway Bay FM interviews the Galway Harbour Master, Captain Brian Sheridan 

The fleet went on in due course to round out the Cruise-in-Company in Galway Docks, bringing that cheering evening sunshine with them, and coming in to a welcome from Galway Bay FM’s John Mulligan who put together a 24-minute radio documentary about it all,  well boosted by Q&A sessions with such folk as Galway Harbour Master Brian Sheridan and GBSC Commodore Johnny Shorten, who both made full use of the opportunity to promote sailing and the need for improved facilities at all the main centres around Galway Bay.

 Promoting the recreational sailors’ point of view - GBSC Commodore Johnny Shorten (right) is interviewed by John Mulligan of Galway Bay FM Promoting the recreational sailors’ point of view - GBSC Commodore Johnny Shorten (right) is interviewed by John Mulligan of Galway Bay FM

Published in Lambs Week

The ultra-oceanic Galway Bay - with the Aran Islands in its midst, the complex coast of Connemara to the north, and the mighty Cliffs of Moher to the south – is so fixed in most people’s minds as an awe-inspiring sort of place that the idea of using it as a sailing playground and race-course is almost a shock. Yet in Galway Bay SC, that’s how they think of it, and in 2022 they’re staging the third annual Lamb’s Week which – for the early birds at least – is getting under way this (Wednesday) evening as they start making their way westward to Kilronan on Inishmor.

Held over five days, Lambs' Week is a mixture of casual racing, cruising and fun along the shores of Galway Bay with one night in Ros á Mhil, two nights in Cill Rónáin on Inís Mór in the Aran Islands, and the final night in Galway Marina for the Commodore's Ball at the Bill King Clubhouse. This is the re-purposed dockside warehouse in the heart of Galway city which was brought into commission to welcome the participants at the Galway Stopover in the Round Britain & Ireland race two month ago, and proved to be a successful and versatile party centre.

An awe-inspiring race area – Galway Bay with the Aran Islands on station as Guardians of the PortAn awe-inspiring race area – Galway Bay with the Aran Islands on station as Guardians of the Port

The highlight of the weekend is a pursuit race where the boats sail the challenging circuit around Inis Oírr and Inis Mean and return to Cill Rónáin for food, music and plenty of craic. Last year the winner by just 30 seconds from Jackie Cronin’s Jimmy Burn from Kilrush was Mark Wilson’s Sigma 33 Scorpio (GBSC). With handicaps taken at the start, the pursuit race time calculations made by GBSC’s Fergal Lyons were a work of genius, as most of the fleet finished within a very tight time-span.

Event sponsors include Corio Generation, a leader in the development of offshore wind farms, Gaeltacht na hÉireann, Aerogen, the world leader in high-performance aerosol drug delivery, and the Port of Galway, who are instrumental in making the event possible.

In addition to providing the best of sport and sailing for west coast boats, the organisers are keen to promote the excellent cruising grounds of the West Coast while highlighting the need and opportunity for better facilities for the many visiting boats at the Aran Islands and other anchorages. 

Part of the fleet in Kilronan Harbour during Lambs’ Week 2021Part of the fleet in Kilronan Harbour during Lambs’ Week 2021

Published in Lambs Week
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So much happened so quickly in Galway Bay SC’s 46-boat Lambs Week cruise to the Aran islands and Connemara (as reported in Afloat.ie) that it took a day or two for a more formal presentation to take place with the main King of the Bay trophy going to winner Mark Wilson (GBSC), whose Sigma 33 Scorpio won the Round the Aran Islands Race Pursuit Race by just 30 seconds from Jackie Cronin’s Jimmy Burn from Kilrush, a great credit to handicapper Fergal Lyons.

The trophy was presented for competition by Galway Marine, and with the silver salver now properly inscribed, it was handed over yesterday (Monday) by co-proprietor Piece Purcell Jnr in the popular marine store which has become an integral part of the maritime scene in Galway’s city and dockland area.

Connemara champion: Mark Wilson’s successful Sigma 33 Scorpio is crewed by Cian Conroy, Cronan Quirke, Damian Burke, Aoife Macken and ISO.Connemara champion: Mark Wilson’s successful Sigma 33 Scorpio is crewed by Cian Conroy, Cronan Quirke, Damian Burke, Aoife Macken and ISO.

Published in Lambs Week
Tagged under

With an impressive and eclectic fleet of 46 boats from West Coast ports which ranged from Clew Bay to the north to Kilrush in the Shannon Estuary to the south - in addition to the many harbours and anchorages within Galway Bay itself - last weekend's five day Lambs Week Cruise organised by Galway Bay Sailing Club took full advantage of the improving weather to take in Rossaveal, Kilronan on Inishmor in the Aran Islands, and Roundstone, the very essence of Connemara.

The theme of the five-day Lamb's Week – which began with most boats assembling at Rossaveal Marina on the Thursday evening – was accessibility, and the willing provision of encouragement for the less-experienced.

But one of the challenges in organizing a heavily-subscribed Cruise-in-Company of this nature in a very special place like the greater Galway Bay area is that while the number of very useful marinas at strategic ports is increasing, the number of pontoon berths available for visitors – even with rafting-up – is limited, and extra boats will have to find secure moorings, or rely on their own anchors.

It's one very complicated piece of coastline, but in experienced company it becomes a cruising paradiseIt's one very complicated piece of coastline, but in experienced company it becomes a cruising paradise

Any proper cruising boat should of course have adequate ground tackle. However, the problem of confined space in the best anchorages – often with established moorings cluttering the sea-bed - together with the rich proliferation of seaweed, means that your anchor can become irretrievably fouled, or else it doesn't take hold at all as it sits on a bed of kelp.

GBSC came up with a solution of breath-taking simplicity. They made a batch of concrete mooring blocks at their Renville base near Oranmore at the head of the Bay, and with the skilled services of Ocean Crest Marine, they'd a complete set of these additional reliable moorings in place when the first of the fleet arrived in Aran through Friday afternoon and evening with a race from Rossaveal in a brisk sou'wester which experienced the last of the Cruise's serious rain.

Problem: Shortage of Visitors' Moorings? Solution: Galway Bay SC simply made their own, and sent them on ahead of the fleet.Problem: Shortage of Visitors' Moorings? Solution: Galway Bay SC simply made their own, and sent them on ahead of the fleet.

Rossaveal was the assembly port for a diverse fleet – this is the Contessa 32 of Gillian Flattery and Blair Stannaway ready for the off.Rossaveal was the assembly port for a diverse fleet – this is the Contessa 32 of Frankie Leonard ready for the off.

Kilronan became the fleet base throughout Saturday and into Sunday morning (it will be the location for WIORA Week 2023), and with such numbers in port, it seemed natural to provide a race right round the Aran Islands for those with the need for a further spot of competition, though some thought they'd done quite enough racing with Friday's windward slog.

The pontoon-berthed section of the fleet in Kilronan. Photo: Declan DooleyThe quayside-berthed section of the fleet in Kilronan. Photo: Declan Dooley

Racing the Atlantic during Lamb's Week, Aaron O'Reily's Kondon Buntz in foreground.Racing the Atlantic during Lamb's Week, Aaron O'Reily's Kondon Buntz in foreground.

Twenty-one boats of all shapes and sizes – in other words, nearly half of the fleet – took on the challenge in a sunny 18 knots westerly, the highlight being the spectacular sight of the Cliffs of Moher as they made the southerly turn of the circuit at Finnis Rock. To add to the sport, it had been made a pursuit race, with the first boat – Patrick McCarthy's Snapper – getting away at 11:00 hrs, while the Queen of the Fleet, Tomas Furey's speedy big Rhodocar, was held back until 11:44.

Winning style – Mark Wilson's Scorpio sweeps along to a close victoryWinning style – Mark Wilson's Scorpio sweeps along to a close victory

First to finish – and winner of the King of Lambs Trophy – was Mark Wilson's Sigma 33 Scorpio from GBSC. But if anything it's the handicapper, Fergal Lyons, who deserves a Gold Medal at the very least, as Scorpio at 14:16:53 crossed the final line only 30 seconds ahead of Jackie Cronin's Jimmy Burn from Kilrush, which in turn was five seconds ahead of Conor Owens' Sealion (GBSC), while only one second behind that in fourth was Stephen O'Gorman's Green Monkey (GBSC).

Brothers Conor and Fergal Lyons aboard Out of the Blue. It was Fergal who produced the exceptionally well-judged handicaps.Brothers Conor and Fergal Lyons aboard Out of the Blue. It was Fergal who produced the exceptionally well-judged handicaps.

This was pursuit racing at its very best, as their starting times had been Scorpio: 11:23; Jimmy Burn: 11:33; Sealion: 11:14; and Green Monkey 11:42. It was superb sport which greatly impressed the Aran Islanders, and set the tone for a boisterous night in Kilronan. Yet they still managed to be underway in a reasonably timely manner on the Sunday morning for the calm hop northwestward to Roundstone, one of the Connacht coast's great cruising passages as it involves a rewarding mixture of open ocean sailing and reasonably intricate pilotage to conclude in a little port which rates highly on any discerning cruising person's dream list.

There was time for a lunchtime break and swims and shore visits at MacDara's Island – GBSC Commodore John Shorten likened the procession of the fleet to a miniature of the approaches to the Suez Canal – before going on into the embrace of Roundstone, with the partying ashore rounded out by a barbecue in the Village Hall, following which the overnight fog was successfully negotiated by Martin the ever-helpful unofficial Roundstone harbourmaster to ensure that everyone got safely back to the right boat.

Part of the fleet in RoundstonePart of the fleet in Roundstone
They brought the summer back with them – sunset at the return to RossavealThey brought the summer back with them – sunset at the return to Rossaveal

The morning brought total summer with bright sunshine and the temperature pushing towards 25 degrees as the majority headed back towards Rossaveal, while others had longer passages north and south after a hugely successful event which will be remembered as one of the highlights of the 2021 season on the west coast.

As ever with an event of this kind, there were many movers and shakers and volunteers involved, but if you suggested that John Shorten and Cormac Mac Donncha in particular - and the likes of Pierce Purcell and others - had something to do with this remarkable happening, you wouldn't be far off target.

The King of Lambs – Mark Wilson's Sigma 33 Scorpio was crewed by Cian Conroy, Cronan Quirke, Damian Burke, Aoife Macken, and Iso.The King of Lambs – Mark Wilson's Sigma 33 Scorpio was crewed by Cian Conroy, Cronan Quirke, Damian Burke, Aoife Macken, and Iso.

Published in Lambs Week

The Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) Information

The creation of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) began in a very low key way in the autumn of 2002 with an exploratory meeting between Denis Kiely, Jim Donegan and Fintan Cairns in the Granville Hotel in Waterford, and the first conference was held in February 2003 in Kilkenny.

While numbers of cruiser-racers were large, their specific locations were widespread, but there was simply no denying the numerical strength and majority power of the Cork-Dublin axis. To get what was then a very novel concept up and running, this strength of numbers had to be acknowledged, and the first National Championship in 2003 reflected this, as it was staged in Howth.

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

ICRA National Championships

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

ICRA Boat of the Year (Winners 2004-2019)

 

ICRA Nationals 2023

The date for the 2023 edition of the ICRA National Championships is 1st to 3rd September at Howth Yacht Club in Dublin.

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