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Displaying items by tag: Optimist

The recently-published ISA Survey of Club Racing commissioned and supervised by Board Member Jack Roy has started the process of putting together a realistic picture of how we sail and go afloat for recreation, and it was analysed on publication here in

It’s logical to have made the beginning with club racing, as racing provides its own narrative and a straightforward set of entry numbers and results. But it will become more complex as the national authority tries to provide realistic figures for day sailing’s less competitive aspects. And of course, once we enter the world of cruising as defined by sailing and boating projects which include passage making, both coastal and offshore, together with overnight on-board stops, then it can become much more difficult to get meaningful data.

Yet with the ISA’s Cruising Conference for February 20th already booked out within a few days of being announced on, clearly that is an area in search of services and support, a section of sailing which is difficult to quantify yet obviously of strong interest to a significant number of boat enthusiasts. W M Nixon takes a look at how the complexity of our sport’s many specialities makes it difficult to provide a clearcut picture for possible recruits to sailing.

Where would we be without the International Optimist Dinghy? The little solo-sailing boxes and their attendant support teams of mum and dad and the dog and the old 4X4 or station wagon or people carrier or whatever may seem to take up an awful lot of space and time, and all just so that one little person can go sailing.

But at least that one little person does go sailing. The ISA figures are brutally straightforward. In terms of genuine turnouts afloat at clubs throughout Ireland, in boat numbers the active Optimists are exceeded only by the Lasers, and this is arguably because Lasers aren’t age-limited, whereas the Optimists most definitely are.

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Optimist airborne. This is Ireland's second most popular class

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Ireland’s most popular dinghy class, the Laser is seen here at the Zhik Irish Nationals at Ballyholme

So we give a qualified cheer for the success of these two little boats. But it’s qualified because they’re single-handers which fail to provide any crew-relating sailing skills. Leading sailing figures as diverse as Des McWilliam of Crosshaven and Norman Lee of Greystones have been eloquent in promoting the notion that we should be doing more – much more – to encourage two-handed boats, and if we can persuade people into three-handed boats, well, so much the better.

Certainly that’s one of the reasons why our header photo says so much. A lone sailor in an Optimist or Laser promotes too much of a solitary, even an isolated image. And a two-handed boat like the GP 14, whose strong fleet figures in the ISA survey show the class’s vigour, is arguably just an act for a dynamic duo – it’s Strictly Come Dancing goes sailing…..

But getting three together to race a characterful boat like the National 18 with style – now that’s something special, that really is a superb combination of people skills interacting with sailing talent. And it’s a joy to behold. Yet anyone can see that for a complete beginner to sailing, this extraordinary silhouette of Tommy Dwyer’s National 18 against the November sky above the Hill of Howth will have an otherworldly air about it – “That’s not for me” is as likely a response as “Let’s have a go at that”.

Even those of us who have been in sailing for longer than we care to remember find the image decidedly thought-provoking, for we have some idea of what has been involved in creating the circumstances for this seemingly effortless balancing act, this lighter-than-air effect in the unlikely setting of a November afternoon.

Over the past year or so we have been recounting in Afloat,ie how the Cork Harbour National 18 Class, with very tangible backing from the Royal Cork Yacht Club, have been in the forefront of the development of the new ground-breaking Phil Morrison take on the long-established National 18, which is a developmental class which from time to time takes a leap in hull design, and moves forward in order to keep the spirit alive.

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The National 18s are part of the fabric of Cork Harbour sailing. Before the new Morrison boats arrived in July, the old fleet were seen here in May 2015 after their annual race to Ballinacurra in northeast Cork Harbour in company with the Dwyer brothers’ cruising ketch. Photo: W M Nixon

Acceptance of this is something which seems to be bred into Cork’s National 18 enthusiasts, many of whom have the advantage of being firmly of the opinion that a proper dinghy needs three people to sail it. But the social matrix which has built up around Cork Harbour over many decades with this concept at its heart is not something which will necessarily travel easily to other areas, and although the six boats of the National 18 flotilla which visited Howth for the Open Day got a great reception and gave many people from other classes a marvellous time afloat, it’s probable that the very different mood around sailing in Dublin means that something so technically and socially challenging as a three man dinghy is a step too far.

Sailing in the greater Dublin area seems to exist within a framework of independent balloons. While there are those who will happily move from one boat type to another and cheerfully spread their talents and enjoyment about, by contrast there’s the Dublin Bay Sailing Club Thursday Evening Phenomenon.

Thursday is when the DBSC cruiser classes go out to race. And there’s an entire cohort of people, mostly folk who work in offices in the city, who on a Thursday evening go straight to Dun Laoghaire, get aboard a pontoon-based cruiser owned by someone else, go out and race in some very specific crewing job, then come back in and have supper in club or pub with their shipmates, and then that’s it until next Thursday. Just one evening each summer mid-week is their entire sailing programme. Weekends are for something else. And as for the hassle and mixed joys of boat ownership and maintenance, that’s not their department at all.

It’s a very metropolitan, very citified yet specialized way of doing things, and Dublin is one of the very few cities whose location facilitates it. It will be fascinating to measure it, for Dublin’s way of sailing is steeped in history and tradition. But for now it’s refreshing to look at a place which has had a sailing tradition in times past, but somehow lost it, yet it’s coming back again, and one of the good news stories towards the end of 2015 is that the new Youghal Sailing Club has been accepted into the ISA fold.

Youghal at present is a difficult place for sailing, as the tidal power of the mighty Munster Blackwater sweeps straight through the estuary and along the old town’s waterfront, and the creation of any meaningful modern facilities will have the immediate difficulty of silting by incredibly adhesive black mud.

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With the sun out, and the tide in, Youghal looks to be an ideal location for the easy installation of a marina….....Photo: W M Nixon

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….but with the sun in and the tide out, the mud problem is revealed. Photo: W M Nixon

Thus, as dedicated readers will have recently observed, no sooner had one group announced that a marina in Youghal was on the way than another longer-established group quietly suppressed the story, as they’re well aware of the engineering and dredging difficulties involved, and premature announcements will only slow any project in the long run.

In the fullness of time, a marina at Youghal will be a godsend for any cruiser plugging along the south coast. It’s not always the easiest coast in the world to make a passage along, sometimes it can seem an awfully long way to Cork from Dunmore East or Kilmore Quay even if you do make stopovers at Dungarvan or Helvick, and there are times when the hardiest seafarer is glad enough to get his boat secured to a good big pontoon.

But that’s for the future. Meantime, the locally-based keelboats are using either the restless anchorage off the town, or the more serene pool across the estuary at Ferry Point on the east shore, while the new club’s flotilla of GP 14s are stored in spare warehouse space during non-sailing time, and when they do go sailing it turns out their clubhouse is a moveable feast - it’s a caravan which can be towed to a choice of sailing locations.

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A moveable feast. Members of the newly-affiliated Youghal Sailing Club with their caravan HQ, Adrian Lee in doorway. Photo: W M Nixon

On the national stage, it is young Youghal GP 14 sailor Adrian Lee who has been among those flying the club’s flag, and there’s hope in the air. When we were there in May on a fine day that promised a summer which never arrived, we couldn’t help but think that when they do get their facilities and maybe even a clubhouse, they’ll look back to the days of the caravan and ad hoc racing arrangements with sweet nostalgia. For sometimes, it’s much better to be travelling than it is to arrive.

But for the rest of us, the message from Youghal is simple. The sea is for sailing. Use it or lose it. By all means get proper people surveys done which indicate the way numbers are shaping up and things are going. But really, if you want to persuade people to go sailing, the best way is by example, getting afloat as much as possible yourself. And maybe then you’ll find the time to welcome aboard newcomers too.

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Reviving Youghal sailing – on race days, the club’s caravan is simply towed down to the pier and the races are started from there. Photo: W M Nixon

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Youghal’s massive public slip provides launching for the YSC sailing dinghies, but during 2015 the boats had to be stored at the other end of town when not in use. Photo: W M Nixon

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The pace-setter. Adrian Lee of Youghal SC with his Duffin-built GP14. Photo: W M Nixon

Click to download: ISA Survey of Club Racing 

Published in W M Nixon

The Irish Optimist Dinghy Association of Ireland (IODAI) will hold its spring training week at Baltimore sailing Club in West Cork over the February 2016 Mid-term break. This is Ireland’s largest sailing camp and generally caters for up to 160 sailors from 8 – 15 yrs old.
The village of Baltimore will be effectively taken over by approximately 160 keen sailors and their families for the week. A team of International coaches from Greece, & Poland are joined by top Irish coaches to provide training for sailors of all competencies, from those who have only recently started to sail to those who are competing internationally.
The Baltimore event is considered to be one of the top International clinics in Europe. It is very much a family-oriented event, with a programme of activities for children too young to sail, and events also organised for adults, such as the ‘How to Rig an Oppi’ class for novice parents! Schull & Fitbones
provides activities for those 5 years and upwards who are not yet sailing, they do Baltimore Treasure Hunt and Playground games, Sherkin Island trip and an Adventure Challenge in Lough Hyne Woods .
The event is organised by IODAI which is comprised of volunteers, which are the parents of sailors. It takes 25 – 30 volunteers per day to run the event efficiently and the overall event is managed by Mandy Kelly and assisted by Sara Lacy both parents of sailors. 
Evening activities are also on offer, including the ever-popular ‘a cinema night, disco night and of course the cake competition on the last day of sailing. In addition the week finishes off with a one day regatta which helps sailors consolidate all they have learnt during the week & to put it into practice.
An IODAI forum takes place during the Baltimore week where all parents are invited to express their views or seek information on the running of the Optimist class.

Published in Optimist

Is Dun Laoghaire Harbour a busier dinghy sailing venue on Autumn Sundays than it is in Summer? Certainly if yesterday's activity at the National Yacht Club, Royal St. George YC, Royal Irish, Irish National Sailing School and DMYC is anything to go by. 

While Anthony O'Leary was winning the All Ireland sailing championships just off the harbour mouth there was no less than six other fleets racing or race training in and around the east coast port. Just as the season is meant to be tapering off Fireflies were team racing from the Royal St. George Yacht Club and Fireballs were giving 'just for fun' demo sails from the DMYC but far and away the main point of interest in the NYC was for the Jelly Bean Junior Regatta (pictured above) that had a variety of fleets racing across the harbour. 

In addition Laser 4.7s were training in Scotsman's Bay and a number of foiling Moths came out to play when the breeze puffed up to 15 knots yesterday afternoon. A perfect breeze to give the INSS novices plenty of fun on the east bight in colourful Laser Pico dinghies.

If there was any disappointment it was that there were few – if any at Ireland's biggest sailing centre – that ventured out to spectate at a thrilling final of the All Ireland Sailing Championships but that's because Dun Laoghaire sailors were all too busy sailing themselves?

Day two of the Optimist Leinster championship at Howth Yacht Club dawned with a lot less wind than the previous one, posing difficulties for sailors and race officers alike.

Launching was slightly delayed as the optimistic sailors waited for the wind to fill in.

The feather weights in the fleet cheered silently whereas the heavy weather sailors hoped that windguru had got it wrong and that perchance 20 knots was on the way.

Race 4 of the championship was completed in 7 knots of breeze and in the senior fleet Cathal O'Regan RCYC took a bullet followed by Jack Fahy Rsgyc. In the juniors Royal Cork took line honours with Michael Crosbie taking first followed by Harry Twomey. After this the longed for discard kicked and places reshuffled.

Race five of the championship was started for the junior fleet in 5 knots of breeze but had to be abandoned after a significant wind shift which would have resulted in an unfair race.

Once again the junior fleet started but after the wind died away the PRO made the wise decision to once again abandon as too much was at stake to risk having a floating race.

Ribs were sent out in all directions in search of the elusive wind which appeared to be playing hide and seek. Finally wind filled in and having moved the course in the direction of Portmarnock one race was completed for both senior and junior fleets. The 3pm deadline for starting a race was fast approaching and having all had a long day on the water and sailed fairly PRO Richard Kissane made the wise decision to send the fleet home.

Local sailor and overnight leader Dylan O'Grady had to concede to Cathal O'Regan for Leinster Championship honors as the cork sailor won out on count back. In the Junior Fleet Aoife Byrne was the outright winner followed by the National Yacht Clubs Conor Gorman who had improved tremendously on his position from yesterday.

The Regatta fleet once again had a great days sailing and PRO Des Flood managed to get one race in which was won by HYC's Sarah Evan's. The overall winner of the regatta fleets 4 races was John Twomey.

The top 5 winners in the Senior and Junior Fleets are listed below.

Senior Fleet

1 Cathal O'Regan Royal Cork Yacht Club
2 Dylan O'Grady Howth Yacht Club
3 Kate Darcy Royal Cork Yacht Club
4 Tom Higgins Royal St. George Yacht Club
5. Charlie Cullen National Yacht Club

Junior Fleet

1 Aoife Byrne Royal Cork Yacht Club
2 Conor Gorman. National Yacht Club
3 Rory O'Sullivan. Royal Cork Yacht Club
4 Harry Twomey Royal Cork Yacht Club
5 Leah Rickard National Yacht Club

Congratulations to the event management and hospitality teams in HYC chaired by ISA board member Robert Dix for hosting a fantastic event.

This concluded the IODAI event roundup for the season. Prizes were awarded first to the. Regatta Fleet sailors and then later the main prize giving concluded at 5 pm.
Congratulations to all the sailors who have learnt so much over the season see you all next year!

Published in Optimist

Howth Yacht Club hosts the final day of the Leinster Optimist Championships this morning with in excess of 150 entries. Saturday dawned bright and if not sunny, exceedingly pleasant. The wind was from the north approx 12 knots and the there was definitely an autumnal nip in the air.

Richard Kissane as PRO started the proceeding at 11 am with a sailors briefing and the sailors launched shortly afterwards. It was a beat out to the course beside Irelands eye but luckily the tide had turned and helped the sailors on their way. After the sailors had launched refreshments and home made goodies were served to parents with donations going to Crumlin Children's Hospital.

3 races were completed on the main fleet course with the wind dropping over the course of the day to approx 6 knots and times and veering slightly easterly. HYC's own Dylan O'Grady had a stormer of a day with a 1st, 2nd and third but he can't rest on his laurels just yet as Kate Darcy from RCYC is hot on his heels a mere one point behind followed slightly further back on 12pts by Tom Higgans.

Over in the Junior Fleet (aged 12 and under) Aoife Byrne from RCYC is leading the charge winning the first two races and taking a 4 th in the 3 rd she is followed by the home clubs Eve McMahon and her own team mate Rory O'Sullivan.

Regatta fleet sailors sailed in the sheltered waters behind Aqua restaurant under the watchful eye of lead coachs Mark Condy and Emma Davis. They had a fantastic days sailing as they practised the skills learnt over the season. 3 short races were also completed for these younger sailors with Thomas O'Neill, Juilette Garett and John Toomey each taking a race win.

HYC's hospitality didn't disappoint and the sailors were served delicious spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread followed by ice cream in the main dining room of the club.

Racing continues today and with lighter winds forecast it's still all to play for...

Published in Optimist
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After eight days of light or no winds the biggest ever Optimist World Dinghy Championships concluded in Poland. 

58 nations and 275 competitors raced over nine days but it was Singapore who came out on top with three Gold medals and one Silver.

Team Ireland learned many 'valuable lessons', according to coach Thomas Chaix on social media. On the results side, Harry Bell was top half, Peter Fagan scored Ireland's only top 10 race result and finished seventh overall in the Bronze fleet. Gemma McDowell was 31st girl and Clare Gorman 35th. The youngest team member Micheal O'Suilleabhain gained experience and raced in bronze. 

Next year the World Championships are in Villamoura, Portugal

Published in Optimist
Tagged under

#optimist – The Optimist class will be team racing in the waters off Howth Yacht Club this weekend competing against each other to get a winner of the VP Trophy with races umpired by national & international race umpires writes Jill Somerville. This event is organised by IODAI & HYC together.

The Vice President's Trophy was inaugurated in 1986 and has been running on and off for the past 29 years. The trophy & event was created by Helen Mary Wilkes who at the time of inception was the Vice President of the world governing body for Optimists, IODA.

Helen-Mary and Robert Wilkes have been the driving force of Under-16 sailing globally. Their contribution to the global development of junior sailing has been immense and was recognized by ISAF a number of years ago when at the ISAF Council meeting in 2008, President of the International Sailing Federation, presented the ISAF President Development Award to Helen-Mary WILKES and Robert WILKES for their services to junior sailing.

Initially specializing in event organisation, Helen-Mary Wilkes became Vice-president of IODA in 1985, President from 1989-1998, Vice-President of Honour from 1998-2005. Helen-Mary & Robert Wilkes have been involved with the Optimist class for over 35 years and here in Ireland the IODAI class benefited considerable from Helen-Mary's vast experience.

She developed the VP Team Racing event which is a club event for Optimist sailors with at least one sailor of each gender on the team. Teams are made up of 4 sailors from the one club and for the 2015 event there are 8 teams entered. A schedule of 28 round robin races have been drawn up with each of the teams due to sail against every other team and then the option of a semifinals & finals weather & time dependent. Key clubs in the Optimist scene such as HYC, RCYC and R.StGYC and the IODAI world's team will all fight it out on Sat 13th in waters off HYC. There will be good viewing from Aqua restaurant or the pier in Howth. The wining club team will head to the Optimist European Team Racing Championships in Aug in Ledro Italy. Race Officers Neil Murphy & Richard Kissane will be hoping for a little more wind than is currently forecasted to get through the heavy race schedule and we hope to have a winner declared late on Saturday afternoon. IODAI wishes good luck & fair sailing to all in the event.

Published in Optimist

#optimist – Howth Yacht Club's Harry Bell was the winner of a cut–short Optimist Ulster Championships at Ballyholme Yacht Club yesterday. Like other east coast sailing events Satuday's schedule was blown out and three races were sailed on Sunday. Lough Derg Yacht Club's Sarah Levie was second in the 32–boat senior fleet and third was the Royal St. George's Hugh Kennedy. Results for the senior, junior and regatta fleets are downloadable below. 

Published in Optimist
Tagged under

#optimist – Optimist dinghy ace Micheal O'Suilleabhain of Kinsale Yacht Club took a well earned win on home waters yesterday with a ten–point margin in the senior fleet after six races sailed at the Munster championships. The 13–year–old beat the Royal St. George's Tom Higgins with Howth Yacht Club's Jamie McMahon third in the 41–boat main fleet. In the junior fleet 12-year–old Robert Keal beat club mate Harry Twomey in a one–two for Royal Cork Yacht Club. Results for both fleets are available to down laod below as jpeg files.

The Optimist Munsters had an excellent entry of 36 boats in the Regatta fleet, all very enthusiastic and rearing to go in the excellent conditions prevailing on Saturday. They sailed against the magnificent backdrop of Charlesfort and, with the promise of more wind for Sunday, the Race Officer got in four races on the day. The very active youngsters came ashore tired but vey satisfied with their day and looking forward to enjoying some time in Kinsale but aware of the fact they had to be rigged and ready to go to sea at 9.30am on Sunday. 

Following all this activity the young competitors set about tidying and packing away their gear in preparation for the journey home. The Regatta prizegiving was held separately from the Senior and Junior fleets. Some of the regatta sailors and their families were then able to leave early for the journey home to various parts of the country with a large contingent heading for Dublin.

Others had older brothers and sisters sailing in the two higher fleets and they were able to enjoy themselves around the club facilities while waiting for the second prize giving to finish.

Published in Optimist
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The Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) Information

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

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

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

ICRA National Championships

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

ICRA Boat of the Year (Winners 2004-2019)


ICRA Nationals 2021

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

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