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The RC35 Championship has concluded for 2023, with Ben and Jono Shelley in their J109 'Mocking J' claiming their inaugural Championship victory.

The final event, The North Clyde Regatta hosted by Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club, started with Charlie Frize’s Corby 33 Banshee leading the other Corby 33, John Stamp’s Jacob VII and Mocking J by 3 points.

RC35 2023 Champions - Ben and Jono Shelley in their J109 'Mocking J'RC35 2023 Champions - Ben and Jono Shelley in their J109 'Mocking J'

After an even first day, with three different boats securing wins in the three races sailed, Banshee still had her nose in front to retain the overall Champion, with Jacob the closer contender.

"Five different winners for the RC35 events in 2023 and eight different models of yachts competed"

However, Mocking J secured two bullets on the final day on the North Clyde Regatta, ensuring an event win and with Charlie Frize’s Corby 33 Banshee in fourth place they ended on equal points for the season.

Second in the 2023 RC35 Championships - Charlie Frize’s Corby 33 BansheeSecond in the 2023 RC35 Championships - Charlie Frize’s Corby 33 Banshee

Mocking J took the Championship on countback thanks to two event wins through the season. Jacob took the final step on the podium in third place.

Third in the 2023 RC35 Championships John Stamp’s Jacob VIIThird in the 2023 RC35 Championships John Stamp’s Jacob VII

The season-long Championship consisted of six events spread between Scotland and Ireland, with 14 boats competing within a tight IRC handicap band of 1.010 to 1.040. With races won and lost by seconds and events regularly being decided on countbacks, concentration, teamwork, and decision-making are critical.

The RC35 Class is looking forward to its seventh year in a healthy state—five different winners for the events in 2023 and eight different models of yachts competed in the Class.

RC35 Class Supporters are North Sails, Marlow Ropes, Harken and Musto.

Published in RC35
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The RC35/IRC event at Royal Ulster on Belfast Lough last weekend came about because of a chance suggestion by a club member.

Although it attracted a small fleet of eight, it did include the very welcome visitors, Ben Shelley in Mocking J from Fairlie YC in Scotland, Pat Kelly’s J109 Storm from Howth and Rush and Hijacker, a Ker 32 raced by Alan Henry from Strangford Lough YC.

Ben Shelley in Mocking J from Fairlie YC in Scotland travelled to Royal Ulster for the RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: AquaventusBen Shelley in Mocking J from Fairlie YC in Scotland travelled to Royal Ulster for the RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Aquaventus

Rory Flannigan organised the event.

In the end, after five races, the ‘spoils’ as Pat Kelly said, were split between John Minnis in the Archambault 35 (with the glamourous spinnaker) Final Call II, who won the RC35 event and himself in the J109 Storm, who topped the IRC 2 fleet. Michael Eames Sunfast 3200 All or Nothing topped the IRC3 class.

Michael Eames All or Nothing (right) IRC 3 winner with Gareth Martel's Pippa VI at the Royal Ulster Yacht Club hosted RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: AquaventusMichael Eames All or Nothing (right) IRC 3 winner with Gareth Martel's Pippa VI at the Royal Ulster Yacht Club hosted RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Aquaventus

Race Officer was Michael Conway from Wexford Harbour Boat Club, setting windward–leeward courses in Belfast Lough. The first three races on Saturday enjoyed perfect Force 4 winds and sunshine. Final Call II was overzealous at the start and was OCS, which did count towards the total points, but the subsequent tally of a second and three firsts assured them of 11 points, tying with Storm with the tie split on the last race count back in their favour. The visiting Mocking J on 14 points was in the third slot, having to count a DSQ in the second race.

All eyes forward on Final Call II at the Royal Ulster Yacht Club hosted RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: AquaventusAll eyes forward on Final Call II at the Royal Ulster Yacht Club hosted RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Aquaventus

Final Call's glamorous spinnaker for the RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Grant StuartFinal Call's glamorous spinnaker for the RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Grant Stuart

The second two races put up with very different conditions. Rain and light winds greeted the fleet, but two races were completed despite the lack of any decent breeze.

In IRC 3, top of the two starters was Michael Eames Sunfast 3200, who tied on eight points with Aidan Pounder’s Beneteau 31 Caesium with the tie split on the last race count back.

RC35 and IRC prizewinners. Third left, RUYC Rory Flannigan, event organiser, and second right Gavin Watson, RUYC Sailing Secretary for the RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Fiona HicksRC35 and IRC prizewinners. Third left, RUYC Rory Flannigan, event organiser, and second right Gavin Watson, RUYC Sailing Secretary for the RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Fiona Hicks

Pat Kelly in Storm was enthusiastic about the event.”Another fantastic weekend in Bangor - absolutely superb conditions, brilliant race management and excellent competition. We love coming to Bangor as the Team is welcomed with open arms, and the craic is mighty. It was a really enjoyable weekend, and great to split the RC35 spoils with Final Call. Thanks to all the lads and other competitors for a great weekend.”

Pat Kelly, skipper of Storm, winners of IRC 2 and Runner Up in the RC35 Class at the RUYC RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Fiona HicksPat Kelly, skipper of Storm, winners of IRC 2 and Runner Up in the RC35 Class at the RUYC RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Fiona Hicks

And from John Minnis “Last weekend’s combined RC35 and IRC Keelboat event was from start to finish one of the very best! Belfast Lough provides world-class racing and is blessed with Mediterranean weather and strong breeze Saturday saw some awesome yacht racing and tight competition. Sunday evened things up; conditions were more familiar with rain and less wind, something for everyone at RUYC". 

John Minnis Final Call II Winners RC-35 Class and Runners Up in IRC 2 at the RUYC RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Fiona HicksJohn Minnis Final Call II Winners RC-35 Class and Runners Up in IRC 2 at the RUYC RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Fiona Hicks

Event organiser Rory Flannigan and his family was congratulated on staging the event. The event was Rory’s Uncle Jeff Flannigan’s idea in the first instance. Rory’s parents Robin and Sarah were mark laying and collating data on the committee boat whilst Jeff and Uncle Gareth were both racing on Final Call. A real family affair - well done to them all and of course the entire army of unsung heroes involved.

Ben Shelley’s Mocking Jay, third overall in IRC and RC35 at the RUYC RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Fiona HicksBen Shelley’s Mocking Jay, third overall in IRC and RC35 at the RUYC RC35/IRC Weekend on Belfast Lough Photo: Fiona Hicks

Three of the fleet are heading to Dun Laoghaire for the Volvo Regatta in July. Mocking J, Final Call and Highjacker will race in Class 1. Another Belfast Lough boat, Shaun Douglas’s Beneteau 40.7 will also be there in Class 0. And RUYC Sailing Secretary Gavin Watson will crew on Jonathan Anderson’s J122e El Gran Senor.

Published in RC35
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Pat Kelly’s family crewed J109 Storm from Howth and Rush began this year’s Celtic Cup RC 35 series with a win at Kip Regatta, the first big event of the season.

Dad Pat Kelly skippered the very competitive Storm with three generations of Kellys; sons Paddy, Paul and Ronan, and grandson David Jnr and, Ronan tells me, the long-standing crew members Kevin Sheridan, Mark Ferguson and Nin O’Leary, who call the shots!

The 11-strong fleet at Kip Regatta run out of Kip Marina at Inverkip in the Clyde, had mainly five light weather races over two days, 13th and 14th May.

Storm came through a very enjoyable tricky regatta in tight racing. Storm won two of the five outings but, after finishing first in Race 3, had to swallow a DSQ for that outing. This left the event wide open with Charlie Frize’s

Corby 33 Banshee and Ben and Jono’s J109 Mocking-J were close on points. Storm fought back on the second day to win Race 4 and take fourth in Race 5. That was enough to snatch first overall by two points to bring home the prize to Rush and Howth.

The expected battle with John Minnis’s Archambault 35 Final Call II from Belfast Lough didn’t materialise.

Next up for Storm is next weekend’s Scottish Series at Tarbert on Loch Fyne in an expected large class of RC35s.

As well as the Kip regatta, the Tarbert event, the RC 35 Celtic Cup series includes the Bangor IRC and RC35 weekend, the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and Largs Regatta Festival.

Published in J109
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The RC35 Scotland season kicks off in two weeks' time at MS&P Kip Regatta on the 13th and 14th of May.

After a very close 2022 season, where the top three places were covered by one point, all the teams are looking forward to getting back on the water and resuming the close racing. 

The concept of the RC35 Class is to bring together similar boats within a close handicap banding and to work with owners and crews to develop the best racing experience possible on the Clyde and the Irish Sea area. 

Mocking J is one of six J109s that make up the 13-boat RC35 classMocking J is one of six J109s that make up the 13-boat RC35 class

The full season looks like:

RC35 Series 2023RC35 Series 2023 - 1 discard if 5 or more events completedRC35 Series 2023 - 1 discard if 5 or more events completed

As Afloat reported recently, the RC35s also host the Celtic Cup to encourage Irish boats to get involved, and this is a limited series with two Scottish and two Irish events, with the hope that the Irish boats may join the full Scottish programme. As regular Afloat readers know, Howth J/109 Storm was the winner of the 2022 Cup.

RC35 Celtic Cup 2023

Celtic Cup 2023 1 discard if 4 events completedCeltic Cup 2023 1 discard if 4 events completed

The usual suspects are all there for 2023. Black Prince (First 35) is returning after a couple of seasons on the East Coast of Scotland, and there is a completely new boat from Ireland, the IMX38 eXcession, that will be a good addition to the class.

Robin Youngs' J109 Jings competing at th 2022 Kip regattaRobin Youngs' J109 Jings competing at the 2022 Kip Regatta

The Class already has 13 entries from Scotland and Ireland. 

RC35 Series 2023 competitorsRC35 Series 2023 competitors

The top three from last year, Banshee (Corby 33), Jings (J109) and Jacob VII (Corby 33), will be ready for battle again but will be challenged by other J109s.

Jacob VII, a Corby 33, is a member of the Scottish RC35 class Jacob VII, a Corby 33, is a member of the Scottish RC35 class 

Storm II will be attending more Scottish events this year and will be challenging the front of the fleet as always. Mocking-J and Salamander will be pushing harder this year after becoming more familiar with their boats, and Blue Jay will be looking to build consistency into their results.

J109 Blue Jay at Kip Regatta 2022J109 Blue Jay at Kip Regatta 2022

Final Call II (Archambault 35) will be up for the challenge as well after some damage ruled them out of some events last year.

Published in RC35
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Scotland's RC35 cruiser-racer class has published its 2023 calendar for its 2023 RC35 Series and 2023 Celtic Cup, and Ireland's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta features in both.

Although Scottish-based, the class has one ‘away’ event each year. This is usually Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta or the Bangor Town Regatta on alternate years.

The concept of the RC35 Class is to bring together similar boats within a close handicap banding and to work with owners and crews to develop the best racing experience possible on the Clyde and the Irish Sea area. 

As Afloat reports here, this year's IRC Class One at VDLR currently boats 25 entries two months before the first gun and with a number of RC35s attending.

The Class is within a tight rating band (IRC 1.015-1.040), with yacht racing in Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

2023 RC35 Series Calendar

Venue

Date

Kip Regatta

13/14 May

Scottish Series, including Scottish IRC Champs

26-29 May

Mudhook, including RC35 Champs

10-11 June

Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta

6-9 July

Largs Regatta

26/27 August

North Clyde Regatta

16/17 Sep

One discard if five or more events are completed.

The RC35s also host the Celtic Cup to encourage Irish boats to get involved, and this is a limited series with two Scottish and two Irish events, with the hope that the Irish boats may join the full Scottish programme. As regular Afloat readers know, Howth J/109 Storm was the winner of the 2022 Cup.

This year a new stand-alone event, the RC35 weekend to be hosted by RUYC on Belfast Lough on June 24/25, makes the calendar.

RC35 Celtic Cup 2023 Calendar

Venue

Date

Kip Regatta

13/14 May

Scottish Series

26-29 May

Bangor RUYC

24/25 June

Dun Laoghaire

6-9 July

One discard if four events are completed.

Published in RC35
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There are only a few days to go until the discounted entry fee for the RC35 two-day event at Royal Ulster Yacht Club on Belfast Lough ends.

Before 30th April, it is £100; after that and before 17th June, it’s £125.

Last year Bangor Town Regatta welcomed several Scottish competitors, but it is not clear if they will sign up for the two-day event this year.

It has prompted the question will Scottish RC35s warm up on Belfast Lough at the inaugural RC35 weekend less than two weeks ahead of the biggest IRC battle of the season in the 25-boat IRC Class One at Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta? Or will they go direct to Dublin Bay? Or do both?

On Belfast Lough, there will be five races over the two days, 24th and 25th June and Event Organiser Rory Flannigan is keen that the event is a success. “The event is for yachts falling inside the IRC classes. As well as prizes for IRC 1, IRC 2 and IRC 3, there will be separate prizes for those yachts which are part of the RC35 class. With three races planned for Saturday and two for Sunday, we are hoping for high-octane racing around a windward/leeward course followed by a barbeque and social on the lawn overlooking the entirety of Belfast Lough. At a very affordable price, any yacht from any port or yacht club is welcome.”

The Notice of Race has been published on the Royal Ulster website (Royal Ulster Yacht Club, Bangor, Northern Ireland | RUYC) and is downloadable below.

For further information, please contact: [email protected] for Rory Flannigan’s attention.

Published in RC35
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With 25 entries already in two months before the first gun (compared to 26 racing in 2019), Class One IRC Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta (VDLR) looks like it's going to be a repeat of some of the hottest Irish Sea IRC action seen since before covid.

The regular Irish and Welsh boats in this class will be joined by some of the Scottish RC35 Class, which previously used VDLR as one of the Celtic Cup events, so it's no surprise to see a few of this number travelling to the hub of Irish Sea yachting, including the Celtic Cup Champion, John Minnis in his A35, Final Call II from Belfast Lough

RC35 Celtic Cup Champion, John Minnis in his A35, Final Call II will compete in IRC One at VDLR Photo: AfloatRC35 Celtic Cup Champion, John Minnis in his A35, Final Call II will compete in IRC One at VDLR Photo: Afloat

Scottish RC35s

Scottish and Northern Ireland RC35s are due to race at Royal Ulster Yacht Club at an inaugural RC35 weekend ten days ahead of Dun Laoghaire, so the visitors should be fully warmed up if that dress rehearsal gets the numbers as Afloat's Betty Armstrong reports here.

Robin Young's J109 from the Scottish RC35 class is Dun Laoghaire bound from the Clyde this July Photo: RC 35Robin Young's J109 from the Scottish RC35 class is Dun Laoghaire bound from the Clyde this July Photo: RC35

Dublin J109s

14 J109s are currently entered (there were 16 in 2019) and are known to be potent across the wind range, as shown in 2019 when 1,2,3 went to the well-sailed Dublin class.

2019 winner John Maybury's Joker II has entered again, and after a successful foray at Cork Week 2022, now has a Cork Harbour tactician onboard. His Royal Irish runner-up clubmates Richard and Tim Goodbody in White Mischief are also in, but third-placed Storm II (Pat Kelly of Howth and Rush) is not entered yet.

2019 VDLR Class One winner, John Maybury's Joker II is a five-time J/109 Irish champion Photo: Afloat2019 VDLR Class One winner, John Maybury's Joker II is a five-time J/109 Irish champion Photo: Afloat

The ISORA champion J109 Mojito is also entered in IRC One, and as regular Afloat readers know, she was the Cork Week Coastal Champion in 2022 but has opted to sail in VDLR IRC One rather than the regatta's dedicated Offshore Class, so it will be interesting to see how the North Wales crew perform inshore.

Richard and Tim Goodbody in White Mischief were Class One VDLR runners-up in 2019 Photo: AfloatRichard and Tim Goodbody in White Mischief were Class One VDLR runners-up in 2019 Photo: Afloat

New Dun Laoghaire J109 entries for July include Bobby Kerr's new 'Riders on the Storm' and Barry Cunnigham's 'Blast on Chimaera', with North Sails' Prof O'Connell onboard, both from the RIYC.

The Shanahan family's J109 Ruth from the National Yacht Club has been an early performer in ISORA coastal and will race to Dingle in June before the VDLR competition in July Photo: AfloatThe Shanahan family's J109 Ruth from the National Yacht Club has been an early performer in ISORA coastal in 2023 and will race to Dingle in June before the VDLR competition in July Photo: Afloat

Apart from the J109s, there are other possible front runners too, but that will depend greatly on wind strength, especially if it stays light for all four days of the regatta. 

A35

Minnis's A35 has just won the 2023 Spring Series in Belfast Lough, and as shown last year, with Gareth Flanigan driving, Final Call II saw them all off at Howth's WAVE Regatta with a dominant performance in a mix of conditions. Her ability to run square downwind with symmetric kites and gain on all the asymmetric boats proves especially effective in medium conditions on windward-leeward courses.

J111 and J99

There are a number of other J models competing, including a further optimised ICRA Boat of the Year, the J99 Snapshot, skippered by Mike and Ritchie Evans of Howth, along with their clubmate Norbert Reilly's brand new J111 Ghost Raider that saw her first action last Sunday in the second ISORA coastal of the season

ICRA Boat of the Year for 2023, the J99 Snapshot co-skippered by the Evans brothers, has been further optimised for the 2023 regatta season Photo: Bob BatemanICRA Boat of the Year for 2023, the J99 Snapshot co-skippered by the Evans brothers, has been further optimised for the 2023 regatta season Photo: Bob Bateman

Corbys

Four Corby designs are competing, and they all are visitors to Dublin Bay. 

Carrickfergus's Brian and Ryan Wilson travel to Dun Laoghaire with their Corby 29E, Elixir. The Belfast Lough boat was the 2022 winner of the IRC One Bar Buoy Race at Strangford.

From Wales, Richard Fildes returns to the bay with his Corby 33 Imposter from South Caernavonshire Yacht Club and Pwhelli's Corby 36, Gelert, skippered by Brian Dixon, can show a turn of speed, again with the deadly use of a symmetric kite. 

Check out the entries so far here

Published in Volvo Regatta
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There are cruiser-racing enthusiasts in Ireland who dream of living in a world of non-stop activity in 2023, making the most of a dedicated traditional schedule in which they swing into action with the Scottish Series - back on Loch Fyne at the end of May as Nature intended - and then keeping going with a judicious mixture of event campaigning, offshore races and brisk delivery cruises until mid-August. By then, they’ll find themselves in West Cork, recovering from Calves Week, and working out how best to get back to the Irish Sea and the final ISORA races and the ICRA Nats at Howth in the first weekend of September.

WALES SPRINGS FORWARD FOR RC35s

But before Scotland’s time-honoured classic, there are those who now dream of starting even earlier in 2023, as the Welsh IRC Championship is currently listed for Pwllheli from 12th to 14th May, when Cardigan Bay’s fine sailing waters should have their magnificent backdrop of Snowdonia still dusted with snow (what else, after all?), and the action afloat is sharpened by the presence of the highly-focused RC35 Class, who are using the Welsh series as part of their season-long count-up to their Celtic Cup.

Summertime at Pwllheli. This year, its major IRC season begins in mid-May with the Welsh Open ChampionshipSummertime at Pwllheli. This year, its major IRC season begins in mid-May with the Welsh Open Championship

This single-minded approach by the RC35s is something which has to be considered by several major regatta organisers, as the class – for boats in the IRC Rating Range of 1.010-1.040 – is building on its inherent strength to such an extent that it is a self-contained force, like the International 505s were in Ireland many years ago. Thus one of the features of the 2023 programme is a stand-alone RC35 two-day regatta on Belfast Lough, hosted by Royal Ulster YC at Bangor on the weekend of June 24th & 25th.

 The RC35s can be good for your civic status. When the class last raced at Bangor (as here), it was still a town. When they return this June, they’ll find that Bangor has become a city, but crews will not be expected to wear ermine robes when racing. The RC35s can be good for your civic status. When the class last raced at Bangor (as here), it was still a town. When they return this June, they’ll find that Bangor has become a city, but crews will not be expected to wear ermine robes when racing

THRIVING CATCHMENT AREA

With the class’s current healthy catchment area extending from Dun Laoghaire to the southwest all the way to the Upper Firth of Clyde in the northeast, with sailing centres on both sides of the Irish Sea and the North Channel much involved, the top boats from the Irish side are currently John Minnis’s A35 Final Call II from Bangor, and Pat Kelly’s J/109 Storm from Rush. So Bangor is a reasonably central and accessible venue for those who wonder if meeting endless logistical challenges has to be an inherent part of campaigning a cruiser-racer.

The rush from Rush…… a view of Pat Kelly’s J/109 Storm (Rush SC) which is all-too-familiar to RC35 competitors. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’BrienThe rush from Rush…… a view of Pat Kelly’s J/109 Storm (Rush SC) which is all-too-familiar to RC35 competitors. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

The short answer is: “Yes, you do have to be a logistics genius”. But meanwhile, other sailors live in a world of an alternative reality, where having your boat at the other end of the country can become demanding to the point of irritation, as there are inevitably other reasonable and non-negotiable domestic requirements increasingly encroaching on your time.

And anyway, what’s the point of being home-based in an agreeable sailing area with plenty of good local racing challenges, when you insist on expending season-long energy in going to only slightly more glamorous alternative locations simply because some hyper-vocal opinion-formers and commentators in sailing will insist on telling you: “This Is Where It’s At. Ya Gotta Be There.”

Born again….once upon a time, this was Paul O’Higgins’ Corby 33 Rockabill V of the RIYC. Now she has a completely new look and identity as a successful contender in the RC35 class. Photo: RC35 ClassBorn again….once upon a time, this was Paul O’Higgins’ Corby 33 Rockabill V of the RIYC. Now she has a completely new look and identity as a successful contender in the RC35 class. Photo: RC35 Class

WHEN LONG VOYAGING TO EVENTS WAS A BADGE OF HONOUR

Now admittedly, there was a time - maybe around forty or fifty years ago - when many of the main pillars of the modern sailing programme in and around Ireland were being put in place. In those early days, being prepared to travel long distances to take part in a location-specific major event was regarded as a badge of honour.

And, of course, by the nature of some events, this was unavoidable.

Thus that great pioneer of support for Wicklow’s Round Ireland Race, Dave FitzGerald of Galway Bay SC, knew that in entering his Holman 41 Partizan he was committing himself to sailing round Ireland twice. Equally, in the days when the Scottish Series was leading the pace in the numbers game with entrants running into several hundreds, boats like Partizan and Donal Morrissey’s GK34 Joggernaut from Galway, and Martin Reilly’s First from Sligo, made the long haul up round Donegal to get to Tarbert.

Dave Fitzgerald’s Partizan from Galway comes out of the dawn to finish the first Round Ireland Race at Wicklow in 1980. Participation in this classic meant she sailed round Ireland twice. Photo: Wicklow SCDave Fitzgerald’s Partizan from Galway comes out of the dawn to finish the first Round Ireland Race at Wicklow in 1980. Participation in this classic meant she sailed round Ireland twice. Photo: Wicklow SC

This was a level of dedication occasionally outdone by a bunch of hard men from Tralee Bay SC in Fenit, who weren’t too sure which way round Ireland was the faster to Loch Fyne from Kerry with their Sigma 33 Black Pepper, but they got there nevertheless.

O’LEARY’S HYPER-ACTIVE CORBY 36 ANTIX

And then in the course of time, Anthony O’Leary of Royal Cork and his largely family crew with the Corby 36 Antix seemed to be winning everything everywhere, accumulating a score-sheet which indicated a level of dedication you’ll seldom see emulated nowadays. For even the current Antix - a Cape 31 with her first American title already logged in the Florida Keys – looks to be setting up for a leisurely American progress northwards with the new summer, bound for various event-offering venues.

 Rather different to Loch Fyne in the Spring – Anthony O’Leary racing the latest Antix (red hull) to success with the Cape 31s in the Florida Keys Rather different to Loch Fyne in the Spring – Anthony O’Leary racing the latest Antix (red hull) to success with the Cape 31s in the Florida Keys

The possibility of a reaction against a hectic season-long and multi-venues programme may in its way be a small reflection of the increasing questioning of the benefits of globalisation. For sure, there are many aspects of life and business which get universal benefit from globalisation. But when carried to extremes, globalisation can mean that one area’s success inevitably brings another area’s impoverishment. 

LIMITED TIME WINDOWS

There are only so many weekends and free weeks available in the most popular period for major racing events, even if experience indicates that a championship of maximum four days is what the punters want for anything other than a Worlds. So, far from working with a clean sheet, any club or organisation looking to introduce a new event into the schedule is almost inevitably going to find they’re clashing with something important somewhere else.

Thus the two outstanding clashes in 2023 are the RC35s on Belfast Lough with RUYC in that last weekend of June going completely head-to-head with the Sovereign’s Cup in Kinsale, and the WIORA Championship 2023 at the intriguing venue of Kilronan on Inis Mor in the Aran Islands from 5th to 8th July, up against the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2023 in Dublin Bay from 6th to 9th July.

America comes to Ireland… one of the most successful contenders in the Sovereign’s Cup in Kinsale in recent years has been Kieran Collin’s Olson 30 Corace IV from Crosshaven, a mini “Transpac sled” of Californian inspiration. Photo: Robert BatemanAmerica comes to Ireland… one of the most successful contenders in the Sovereign’s Cup in Kinsale in recent years has been Kieran Collin’s Olson 30 Corace IV from Crosshaven, a mini “Transpac sled” of Californian inspiration. Photo: Robert Bateman

With the less-crowded West Coast programme, some East Coast sailors were bewildered by WIORA’s choice of dates, but those in the know say that Kilronan is committed to other events – some with a significant shoreside input – on any alternative weekend, and the little port town can only cope with a certain amount of overnight visitors, as the regular air service and the fast ferries from Rossaveal mean that most incomers are only day visitors.

JACKEENS VERSUS CULCHIES AFLOAT

Yet the Dublin spin on it all continues the Jackeen versus Culchie interface in its usual mildly malicious forms. They know that few if any WIORA boats will be interesting in racing in the VDLR in any case, but they point out that national travelling classes such as the J/24s might be keen to do both, but are now prevented. So they take it a stage further and say that the WIORA folk are keen to keep out East Coast interlopers, as the Westerners subscribe enthusiastically to the idea that if you’re keen to run your own regatta, then there’s little point in doing so unless you make reasonably sure that a local boat wins the main trophy…..

Kironan on Inis Mor in the Aran Islands, venue for the WIORA Championship 2023 from 5th to 8th July. Pontoons will be installed in the outer harbour to host the fleet, which totalled 43 boats in 2017 when last at the same venueKironan on Inis Mor in the Aran Islands, venue for the WIORA Championship 2023 from 5th to 8th July. Pontoons will be installed in the outer harbour to host the fleet, which totalled 43 boats in 2017 when last at the same venue

As “local boats” for WIORA means craft drawn from fleets as far north as Killybegs and as far south as Bantry, the scope is already broad in its catchment area. But we wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that some crews in Schull, Kinsale and even Crosshaven are thinking that they might as well turn right as left when they put out to sea in early July to head for a distant regatta, and if they were bound for Kilronan that might put a South Coast cat or two among the West Coast pigeons at Inis Mor.

WE CAN’T APPLY PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS OF INVOLVEMENT TO AN AMATEUR SETTING

Despite that, we take a sanguine view of these “fixture clashes” by pointing out that some amateur sailors are mistaken in trying to take their levels of involvement and time-consuming participation from the examples of headline-dominating resources-dominated super-star events. For the top pros find themselves having to think boats and sailing and personal promotion day and night, and it can be an unhealthy mental environment leading to burnout.

Place of potential pressure: Houston Yacht Club in Texas, where they’ve so much sunshine that boat-owners are prepared pay extra to be berthed under a sun-shading roof. Place of potential pressure: Houston Yacht Club in Texas, where they’ve so much sunshine that boat-owners are prepared pay extra to be berthed under a sun-shading roof. 

We learned of an eloquent instance of this last season when the Irish ILCA squad – with Eve McMahon setting the pace towards another Gold Medal - were doing their stuff in style at the Houston Yacht Club in Texas. For the Houston YC is where John Kolius emerged – yes, that John Kolius, of Volvo Ocean and America’s Cup and sailmaking fame.

HOUSTON, WE HAVE BURNOUT

He makes no secret of the fast that at Houston YC, he was the classic young “clubhuse rat” from a newly-joined family, and mad keen to show he could sail well with any family who were going out when his own family weren’t afloat. And my goodness, could he sail.

He was so good at it that they wanted him here, there and everywhere, winning international races at the very highest level and at such a hectic pace that in time he burnt out, and he knew it. So he sold his sailing business in 2011 and he and his wife have gone private to the point of anonymity with an easygoing sports fishing operation in the Bahamas. 

ICRA “BOAT OF THE YEAR” IS OUR SALVATION

So those who would seek a non-clashing yet continuous season-long programme at a permanent championship pace should maybe be careful of what they wish for. There are times when Less is More. And in Ireland, we now have a rather good solution. Over the years, the formula for selecting the ICRA “Boat of the Year” has been refined until it has produced a set of requirements that can provide a meaningful result within a civilized level of sporting activity afloat.

The J/99 Snapshot (Mike & Richie Evans, Howth YC) is the current ICRA “Boat of the Year”. The continuing refinement of the Boat of the Year formula has gone some way to relieving pressure on any fixtures clash in a typical sailing seasonThe J/99 Snapshot (Mike & Richie Evans, Howth YC) is the current ICRA “Boat of the Year”. The continuing refinement of the Boat of the Year formula has gone some way to relieving pressure on any fixtures clash in a typical sailing season

At its best, it facilitates Corinthian-type sailing, even if semi-professionals are sometimes involved. It’s not perfect, but it really is working quite well. And those of us who fail to see the sport in “sports fishing” reckon that any approach which keeps people happily sailing is something to be welcomed.

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The last time the RC35s raced in Belfast Lough was in the 2022 Bangor Town Regatta. And so successful was the class that it can look forward to a stand-alone event in June this season.

Hosted by the Royal Ulster Yacht Club in Bangor on the south side of the Lough, the five-race, two-day event will be held on Saturday and Sunday 24th and 25th of June. The event organiser is Rory Flannigan.

As this fixture is part of the Celtic Cup, it is expected that many of the RC35 racing fraternity who have frequented Belfast Lough in recent years will return to compete in the event.

 Belfast Lough's Archambault A35 Final Call II, skippered by John Minnis, was the winner of the 2022 Celtic Cup Photo: Afloat Belfast Lough's Archambault A35 Final Call II, skippered by John Minnis, was the winner of the 2022 Celtic Cup Photo: Afloat

Certainly, Stuart Cranston will bring his Ker 35 Hijacker from Strangford Lough Yacht Club to join the winner of the 2022 Celtic Cup, the local Final Call II, John Minnis’s Archambault A35. Both look forward to taking on the cream of the class, many of whom they hope will make the trip from the RC35 strongholds in the Irish Sea. Final Call II won its class at the 2022 Wave Regatta in Howth and will be keen to make up for the gear failure forced retirement from last year’s Bangor Town Regatta.

The Notice of Race and Entry forms will appear in February.

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The 2022 Vantage Health and Life RC35 Championships is a wrap! Another very close season with tight racing in a great variety of locations and conditions. 

The season started with a great turnout of 10 boats at Kip Regatta, where one of the class rookies, John Minnis’s Archambault 35 Final Call II, stole the show taking an event win.

John Minnis’s Archambault 35 Final Call IIJohn Minnis’s Archambault 35 Final Call II Photo: Afloat

The class then moved on to Loch Fyne and the Clyde Cruising Club’s Tarbert Regatta. Even though the event had some initial organisational troubles, Loch Fyne delivered with Champagne blue sky sailing in near perfect conditions. Perennial good performer in the RC35 Class, Kevin and Debbie Aitken’s Beneteau First 36.7 recovered from a poor first regatta to take the victory in Loch Fyne.

The class then crossed the Irish Sea for Bangor Town Regatta. Wow, what a windy event. One day, unfortunately, had to be cancelled due to the conditions, but overall it was a fantastic event on and off the water run by the Royal Ulster Yacht Club. Final Call II sailed another great event and managed to take the victory despite not sailing the final race due to damage.

John Stamp on his Corby 33 Jacob VIIJohn Stamp on his Corby 33 Jacob VII

The class returned home for the RC35 Championships in the new location of the Holy Loch. The event was expertly run by the Holy Loch Sailing Club through some of the wettest conditions seen all season. John Stamp on his Corby 33 Jacob VII retained his Scottish Champion title in a very close regatta where the top five boats were covered by 3 points.

Then, in what turned out to be the season's final event, Charlie Frize on his Corby 33 Banshee won a light wind regatta at Largs Regatta Festival.

Robin Young’s J109 JingsRobin Young’s J109 Jings

Banshee’s win at Largs Regatta Festival meant they took the overall Championship on countback from Robin Young’s J109 Jings, who had led for most of the season. The podium was completed by John Stamp’s Jacob VII.

Overall it was a very close season with three new entrants to the class and the top seven places being covered by only five points.

2022 RC35 Leader board2022 RC35 Leader board

The class are looking forward to more close racing in Scotland and Ireland in 2023.

Thanks to the RC35 sponsors who make it all possible:

  • Vantage Health and Life
  • North Sails
  • Marlow Ropes
  • Musto
  • Harken
  • Scotia Tree Services
  • Scotia Handling Services
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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)