Displaying items by tag: Round Ireland
If it’s an even-numbered year, it’s a Round Ireland Race Year! Things are warming up in Wicklow Sailing Club, the 2017 Mitsubishi Irish Sailing Club of the Year, where preparations for the 2018 Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race are well under way.
Róisín Hennessy, Vice-Commodore of the club, has taken over as Chair of the race committee. A dinghy sailor, Róisín competed in the 2014 race on board Farmer Ryan’s Volvo 60 Monster Project where the team on board took Line Honours in that race.
She will be working closely with Race Organiser Theo Phelan – this is his fourth race as organiser – and with the race committee as they target the delivery of another successful and exciting race.
The 2016 race saw several records broken with George David in Rambler 88 taking both 1st place in IRC and monohull Line Honours. He also added a new record time of 2 days 2 hours 24 minutes and 9 seconds to the many achievements of this American Maxi. Now that’s a record to beat!
Are you up for the challenge? The VRI is one of the longest offshore races in the RORC championship series at 704 nm. It offers spectacular sailing, from the west coast Atlantic rollers to the tidal gates around the Irish Sea.
Save the Date: the 2018 edition of the race starts on 30th June in Wicklow and entries open in January 2018 at www.roundireland.ie. The race carries a 1.4 point weighting in the RORC Championship series.
As an additional carrot for competitors, Volvo have ‘upped the ante’ with their announcement that there is a fantastic prize of a Volvo V40 car, for the best registered entrant on corrected time over the three races from 2016 to 2020.
At least two different viewpoints may be taken on the remarkable and very long history of sailing in Ireland. Either you see it as a wonderful heritage, which should be celebrated with gala anniversaries, and whatever you’re having yourself, at every possible opportunity. Or else you might sadly admit that it’s a burden, a deadening load on all of us which stultifies development, restricts fresh thinking, and railroads the annual programme into a traditional pattern sailed in vintage boats which allows very little space for something with the instant appeal and intrinsic excitement of novelty.
But perhaps there’s a happy place somewhere in between, a thoughtful place among many events, where we can live comfortably with some astonishingly old throwbacks to the distant past, yet continue to modify the programme and our way of doing things in order to accommodate new ideas. And with any luck, we might somehow find space to come up with some bright ideas of our own to add to the rich and very varied tapestry of the world sailing scene. W M Nixon casts an eye over next season’s programme to see what it might bring to the party.
After the excitement of Annalise’s Silver Medal in Rio on August 2016, in 2017 there was a generally unstated but definite feeling that we were due a down-home year, a year when sailing in Ireland in all its quirkiness would be celebrated, and anything with a non-Olympic flavour would be given every encouragement to flourish.
Yet at the beginning of 2017, who could have predicted that as summer approached, it would be Annalise herself who would up-sticks from the pre-ordained Olympian way of doing things, and plunge into the maelstrom which is Volvo Ocean Racing?
Successful predicting doesn’t get any easier, even with detailed programes taking shape. Annalise’s progress in the rugged ocean racing world this will be continuing until the finish in June 2018, but thanks to the Volvo Race’s flexible approach to crewing arrangements, she will be able to opt out for long enough to get herself back into the Olympic Women’s Radial Laser mode from time to time to keep in touch for the big Tokyo 2020 Olympics countdown event in early August 2018, the two-week Hempel World Sailing Championship at Aarhus in Denmark.
There, with 40% of places up for grabs, many other Irish Olympic wannabees will be progressing after long and often lonely months and even years of doing the circuit. By then, several of them such as Aoife Hopkins will have thoroughly tested the waters in the Olympic Classes, starting with the Championships in Florida in January.
February sees action at home and abroad with the growing enthusiasm for Team Racing in action with the Trinity Varsities up on the lake at Blessington on Friday 9th/Saturday 10th February, which will fit them neatly around the Irish Sailing/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Year 2017” awards ceremony back down in Dublin at the RDS on the evening of Friday February 9th, where an exceptionally eclectic group of maritime high-flyers will gather to receive well-deserved praise for many remarkable - indeed, in some cases astonishing - achievements.
But late February will also see serious international racing on the other side of the Atlantic with the increasingly popular annual RORC Caribbean 600 starting from Antigua on Monday 19th February. There’ll be a strong Irish contingent, and we have form here, as Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners from Dun Laoghaire won the first Caribbean 600 in 2009, then Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam! from Howth won her class in 2016, and in 2017 it was all back on top again, as the overall winner, Hap Fauth’s Maxi72 Belle Mente, was navigated by our own Ian Moore.
However, February at home in Ireland for most sailors is conference time, and the ever-expanding annual Irish sailing Cruising Conference is scheduled for Saturday February 17th at the Clayton Hotel in Leopardstown in Dublin, the move to a Clayton Hotel’s conference facilities having started last year in Cork when bookings were so heavy they’d to change the venue from the original choice of the Port of Cork HQ Building.
Nevertheless those dedicated team racers in school and college are also maximising their use of February before exam countdowns take over everyone’s timetable, and there’s the Leinster Schools at RStGYC on February 17th, while the following weekend is the big one, the Irish Universities Championship. In 2017 they had Clifden as a very successful venue in an early weekend in March, in 2018 they’re pushing the early season envelope even further by using the weekend of 22nd-24th February, and the venue is again in the west, this time at Kilrush, County Clare.
Thus we reach the end of February with the season already well under way for some specialists, but mainstream sailors will still be in a different time-scale, and in March the first one for the diary is Irish Sailing’s AGM on Saturday 10th March, venue still to be confirmed. However for those who insist that sailing shouldn’t miss any month of the Irish year, the Royal Cork’s famous come-all-ye dinghy festival, the PY1000, is slated in for Sunday March 11th, and it’s quite something, in fact it’s fantastic.
It would be impossible to imagine contemporary Irish sailing without the Laser, that ageless wonder which has contributed so much to our sport since it first appeared here around 1970. Yes, 1970. To be completely accurate, the Laser will be having its Golden Jubilee in 2019, as the prototpypes and first production boats sailed in 1969, so when our first major Laser event of 2018 gets going, the Munsters at Baltimore on March 31st/April 1st, it will be part of a growing celebration which in 2018 will culminate in Ireland in the mega-fleet World Lasers Masters (we’re talking maybe 400 boats) in Dun Laoghaire in a joint NYC/RStGYC venture from 7th to 17th September 2018. That will be a joyous affair to bring Dun Laoghaire Harbour to an upbeat mood as the traditional sailing season draws to its close after a fascinating main programme in the central part of the 2018 summer, with various pillar events the highlights in a continuous and colourful tapestry which takes in every part of the country.
That “traditional season” will have seen solid regulars such as the annual programme of the steadily-expanding Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association into action by late April (first races are on April 21st), by which time the Irish Sailing’s Youth Pathway Nationals – 2017 was the biggest yet seen when it was at Ballyholme – will have been staged from 5th to 8th April at a venue yet to be confirmed. And Ireland’s long history of team racing will have been acknowledged yet again, this time with the 70th Anniversary of the senior of them all, the Royal St George series in Dun Laoghaire on April 22nd/23rd. Believe me, over those seventy years, just about everybody in Irish sailing seems to have been a participant in some way or other in this grandaddy of team events.
Into May, and the 12th to 18th sees the Asgard II Tall Ship Reunion Voyage in the Irish Sea on the Tall Ship Pelican, followed by a Gala Ball which will show that although the Asgard II was sadly lost ten years earlier in September 2008 when she sank, her spirit and those who sailed on her lives on, and an Irish tall Ship will sail again.
In May the core pace of mainstream sailing is hotting up, though while you might get sunshine, pure heat is still in short supply in Scotland in the Springtime with snow sometimes still on the mountain-tops for the Scottish Series at Tarbert in late May. But this has long been a happy hunting ground for Irish cruiser-racer crews, and we’ve no doubt the tradition will be maintained.
Meanwhile there’s more chance of a first hint of summer warmth away, far away to the southwest at Baltimore in County Cork where the steadily-growing Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival sees 2018’s staging from 25th to 27th May, and the whisper is there might be some unexpected and interesting visitors making their Baltimore debut.
Back in the Irish Sea, the ingenious Peter Ryan of ISORA managed to devise a race in 2017 which somehow took in Howth YC’s time-honoured Lambay Race as the first part of the course. This will be repeated in 2018, helping to swell numbers in an event which, in the Bank Holiday Weekend of June 1st to 3rd 2018, will be part of Howth’s Regatta, the shoreside high point of which is a family day for the peninsula people which in 2017 was adjudged an outstanding success.
Because June’s Volvo Round Ireland Race from Wicklow has been moved from the traditional mid-summer weekend start to the last weekend of the month (presumably to avoid clashing with the finish of the Volvo Ocean Race itself at The Hague in The Netherlands where the stage is set from June 24th onwards), June is quite like old times with each Dun Laoghaire club staging its own Saturday regatta, while at national championship level the J/24s are descending on Foynes from June 8th to 10th, and the Sigma 33s are at the Royal St. George Yacht Club from June 22nd to 24th, while the National 18s in all their fascinating variations get in ahead of everyone with their Nationals at Baltimore on June 2nd/3rd.
Come the end of the month, and all eyes will be focused on Wicklow and the back-up port of Dun Laoghaire for the Volvo Round Ireland Race, counting 1.4 for the RORC points championship, and starting Saturday June 30th. It will be the 20th staging of this very special 704-mile Irish classic (it’s longer than either the Fastnet, the Middle Sea, the Bermuda, the Sydney-Hobart or the RORC Caribbean 600), but the 19th staging in 2016 was such a sensational event, with three MOD 70s and George David’s mighty Rambler 88 stealing the show, that 2018 is going to have to think of something different to make the proper impact.
In the end, its the steady, regular and frequent contenders who are the backbone of this race, and to emphasise this, the organisers are going to find which skipper has had the best accumulated result from the races of 2016, 2018, and 2020. Then at the prize giving after 2020’s race, that top scorer will be awarded a brand-new road-ready Volvo V40.
As to who will be doing the 2018 circuit, we do know already that the winner of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race 2017, Paul O’Higgins (RIYC) with the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, has already signed up the formidable talents of Mark Mansfield of Cork who was on Dave Cullen’s chartered J/109 Euro Car Parks (aka Storm), which was the only Irish boat to win a class in the 2016 circuit.
In July the emphasis moves emphatically to the south coast, and you can drive your new Volvo V40 there in expectation of a warm welcome, as the next big one up is Volvo Cork Week from July 16th to 21st. There’ll be an added sense of anticipation to this marvellous biennial sailfest, for it will be the last Cork Week before the big one in 2020, when the Royal Cork Yacht Club Tricentenary Cork Week will be just one of many major events celebrating 300 years of the world’s oldest yacht club.
Who knows, but maybe by 2020 they’ll be staging the Beaufort Cup as a major standalone event. What started as the germ of an idea in February 2016 for a sailing series among crews from the Defence Forces in the Volvo Cork Week of that July took off like a rocket, and 33 public agency crews in 12 mostly borrowed boats, representing just about every organisation and agency which is involved in serving the public, stretching its remit way beyond the defence forces.
Nevertheless it was a Defence Forces crew, skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne racing John Maybury’s J/109 Joker 2, which topped the leaderboard in a series which brilliantly captured genuine public interest. It was an astonishing success, and already entries are registered for 2018 with so much interest that you’d begin to worry whether there’ll be enough suitable boats available for loan to accommodate everyone.
As it is, taking 12 highly competitive boats out of general competition impinged significantly on the mainstream Volvo Cork Week fleet in 2016, yet having the Beaufort Cup as part of Cork Week is something which adds to the allure of both events, so we sympathise with anyone who, in time, is going to have to square this particular circle. As it is, in 2018 the Beaufort Cup teams are going to be a fully-integrated part of Cork Week, racing the entire five days and savouring the unique Crosshaven Cork Week flavour, but nevertheless there are bound to be those who’ll wonder if extra mileage couldn’t be squeezed from having the Beaufort Cup as a standalone event.
As July veers into August, national sailing interest will swing two ways. Our potential Olympians will be shaping up for the intense contest at Aarhus in Dernmark, and at home in Ireland down in West Cork they’ll be shaping up for the allegedly non-intense Calves Week from Schull. In previewing the 2017 season, we described it as “a fun event with quite serious competitive undertones”, and this was then quoted with approval (and acknowledgement) by the Calves Week Chairman at a subsequent press launch, so if it ain’t broke, why try and fix it, Calves Week 2018 from 7th to 10th August (yes, four days, you’ll do more living in four days in West Cork than you will in a week elsewhere) definitely is a real fun event with quite serious competitive undertones.
Back on the East Coast, meanwhile, the 1898-vintage Howth 17s are putting out the welcome mat on the weekend of August 10th to 12th for a Classics One-Design Regatta. It has been successfully done before with the Mermaids contributing much to the festivities, but this time the Young Gaffers of Howth hope that others – the Glens and Water Wags of Dun Laoghaire spring to mind – might also be interested. Certainly one of the unexpected successes of 2017 was the inclusion of a Classics Division in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta as part of the Bicentenary Celebrations for Dun Laoghaire Harbour, an idea which proved so popular there’s talk of doing it again in 2019, but it’s quite a challenge – getting venerable wooden boats and their characterful crews together is about as easy as herding cats.
Normally August in a non-Fastnet year is a laid-back time for cruiser-racers when it’s possible to slip in one or two well-supported distance races in the Irish Sea, but August 2018 is going to be unprecedented, as both the WIORA Championship and the ICRA Nationals are going to be staged at Galway City from the 15th to the 18th of August.
Traditionalists will be ruffled by it being in August rather than June, and in the heart of the West Coast rather than at either end the old time-honoured basically Cork-Dublin axis. But ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney of Foynes and his team know that there is a strong core ownership of cruiser-racers along the length of the western seaboard (think of the 44 boats which turned out for the WIORA Championship in the Aran Islands at exactly the same time as the massive Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 was under way) and this fresh-look cruiser-racer gathering in Galway deserves every chance of success.
This preview of the cornucopia of events which 2018 has to offer is no more than a skimming of the peaks, with occasional in-depth glances at some curious corners of special interest. The sheer diversity of events, boats, locations and people involved is outlined in the detailed Irish Sailing schedule, and every sailor will find his or her favourite event there. But inevitably that detailed schedule is still far from complete. After all, in previewing 2016, even in January of that year we would not have been able to anticipate the huge success of the Beaufort Cup in July, for the then Minister for Defence Simon Coveney TD and his team didn’t have the inspired idea of the Beaufort Cup until late February.
Nevertheless some things have been part of our sailing lives for decades, and every year September brings an entirely new mood, with established summer programmes drawing to a close, Autumn Leagues getting themselves into gear, and All-Ireland Championships to be raced.
The Juniors will be in the last weekend of September, venue and boat type still to be confirmed, but the Seniors are firmly in place at Lough Ree Yacht Club on the weekend of 13th to 14th October, to be raced in SB 20s.
There’s something very pleasing about the fact that the core stream of Irish sailing at home should reach its time-honoured concluding Championship of Champions in the heart of the country at a hospitable club which can trace its history back to 1770, with the event itself being raced in boats of a modern international class which has special Irish links. 2018 Irish sailing at home does indeed give every sign of being another memorable year, with a stylish and upbeat concluding championship.
2018 SAILING HIGHLIGHTS
January Florida USA (Ft Lauderdale & Miami) – Olympic Classes Regattas
February 19th Antigua – RORC 600
March 12th Royal Cork YC - PY 1000
April 5th – 8th Irish Youth Pathway Nationals
April 21st ISORA season starts
May 25th – 29th Scottish Series, Tarbert
June 1-3rd Howth Regatta & Lambay Races
June 30th Volvo Round Ireland Race
July 16th-21st Volvo Cork Week with Beaufort Cup
July 30th – August 12th Hempel World Sailing Championship Aarhus, Denmark
August 7th-10th Calves Week, Schull
August 15th – 18th WIORA Championship & ICRA Nationals, Galway
August 28th – September 1st, SB20 Europeans, Royal Irish Yacht Club
September 7th – 15th September Laser Masters World Championships, RStGYC & NYC
September 29th-30th All Ireland Junior Championship (venue to be confirmed)
October 13th – 14th All Ireland Senior Championship, Lough Ree YC, sailed in SB20s
The giant trimaran Spindrift 2 that was en route to Dun Laoghaire to start a Round Ireland Record attempt has had to scrub the bid due to strong winds off Lands End.
Afloat.ie reported earlier the trimaran was due to start her challenge from Dublin Bay early tomorrow.
Ireland's World Sailing speed commissioner Chris Moore, who is also Dublin Bay Sailing Commodore, confirmed the withdrawal of the French weekend challenge late tonight. 'Unfortunately the record attempt has been called off due to bad weather off Lands End, he told Afloat.ie
It is expected the 40–metre craft will head for the Solent where she will prepare for the Fastnet Race next month.
As The Irish News reports, Caoimhe will be supported by friends and coastal communities around the island of Ireland as she raises funds for mental health charity Inspire.
“Over the past 10 years, I have worked with young people facing massive challenges in their lives and striving to make positive changes to their situation and build their confidence,” she writes on her blog — adding that kayaking is one of the strategies that helps her to look after her own mental health.
Caoimhe set out from Newcastle in Co Down on Tuesday 2 May, paddling clockwise around the coast — and aside from some lively water across Dundalk Bay, it’s been smooth paddling to Skerries, from where she will continue her journey south today (Sunday 7 May).
The world of sailing has so many sectors of interest that it’s challenging keeping track of the general picture. But even when you’ve achieved that basic level of comprehension, you then discover that each sector has so many sub-sectors that it all slips back into confusion. Once upon a time, W M Nixon though he’d a handle on the world of offshore racing. Now, he’s not so sure.
It’s all Tom Dolan’s fault. Most of you will know Tom as the farmboy from Meath who is cutting a remarkable swathe through the world of French Minitransat racing. Last week his name was back up in lights yet again after taking third in a fleet of 52 Minitransat boats in the 300-mile Pornichet Selector, which had these mighty atoms pinging up and down along France’s Biscay coast, with our man being overall leader at two stages.
He’s our Meath man now rather than a Meath farmboy, as he turned 30 on April 27th just after the race had finished. But he still has total boyish enthusiasm for the whole business, allied to a dogged yet adult dedication which is at such a level that it puts him on a different planet from most of the rest of us.
The plan for today was a quick look at Tom and what he’s doing as part of a general overview of the gradual regeneration of offshore racing and its various new areas of rapid development. But the problem is that, once you’ve sensed Tom’s enthusiasm and grasped just how utterly off the wall is his way of life, it takes over the whole show. So we’ll allow it to do so after a quick overview of the general scene.
And where better than to start with a quote from another man from Meath? We’ll always cherish the headline from The Meath Chronicle, when news of a certain sailing event in 1996 percolated through to the editorial headquarters of that esteemed journal in Navan:
LOBINSTOWN MAN WINS ROUND IRELAND YACHT RACE. That’s what it said. Real fame at last. Those of us who have a vague idea of Lobinstown’s location up near Nobber would have guessed it to be in Louth or even Monaghan. But not so, it’s clear over the border, into the Royal County and Meath Chronicle territory, and the Lobinstown man was Michael Boyd, who’d just knocked off the overall win in the big one with his J/35 Big Ears.
For that, he was our “Sailor of the Month” in the inaugural year of the contest, when we began to learn that monthly achievements, clearly highlighted at the time, amount to a very useful quick-reference history of Irish sailing years later. For the record, back in 1996 Big Ears was skippered by Michael Boyd with Jamie Boag (then 25) on navigation, tactics and alternate watch leader, Patsy Burke was relief helm and bowman, Brian Mehigan was bowman, ship’s doctor and cook, trimming team were P J Kennedy, David McHugh, Tim Greenwood and Michael Moloney, and Niall Dowling of the RIYC prepared the boat for the race.
Michael Boyd’s “Sailor of the Month” write-up also told us he’d done the Sydney-Hobart in 1993, the Newport-Bermuda in 1994, and the Fastnet in 1995, so with the Round Ireland won in 1996, you’d think that might be mission accomplished. But things were only getting going, and twenty years later he was back again – after much offshore racing since including being a winning co-skipper in the Irish Commodore’s Cup Team of 2014 – to race as Commodore Royal Ocean Racing Club in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race, skippering the First 44.7 Lisa in which he was to finish third overall, and best Irish boat.
Since then he has linked up with the JPK 10.80 Audrey for racing in Ireland, but he continues to make the scene with the core RORC programme in the English Channel with the First 44.7 Lisa, and last weekend he was one of a goodly fleet in the seasonal opener, the Cervantes Trophy from Cowes to Le Havre, with a very strong French contingent taking part.
0ne of them, the J/133 Pintia skippered by top French sailor Bruno Trouble, won overall from a fleet which reflected the fact that IRC continues to give very good racing for boats of all sizes, types and – in some cases – quite significant ages, as the J/133 dates from 2006, second by just 6 minutes was the Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan (Paul Kavanagh), third was Noel Racine’s regularly campaigned JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew, and fourth was the veteran Swan 55 yawl Lulotte (Ben Morris).
As for Lisa with Michael Boyd, she’d a good race, coming second to Pintia in Class 2, and ninth overall in a fleet of 84 starters. That looked like a pretty good turnout for the time of year, so Afloat.ie tracked down the Commodore of the RORC during the week to see did he share our feeling that there really is a new buzz to the offshore scene, and he responded with enthusiasm:
“Our sport seems to be in rude health these days, with much positive news to report. A Rolex Fastnet Race year always brings out many boats for the summer season. In last weekend’s Cervantes Race, RORC welcomed 84 starters, twice the 2016 figure, and 78 of them made it to Le Havre, more than four times last year’s number when a shocking squall had quite an impact.
Particularly gratifying are marked increases in women and young people taking part. And at home, the numbers are up for the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race, and ISORA’s revival is a source of continuing joy. Long may it continue!”
-Michael Boyd, May 4th 2017
In such a mood of goodwill, Afloat.ie didn’t delve too deeply into other interesting developments within the energetic RORC machine, where Dr Jason Smithwick – who has an impressive background in academia, the research industry, and international sailing administration - will be taking over the key role in administering the IRC. Nor indeed did we enquire further into last week’s rumour that our own Marcus Hutchinson is quietly working behind the scenes to bring about a rapprochement between the IRC and the ORC. Because the fact is, the season is upon us, and for the next three months, the business of racing is top of the agenda.
In the Irish Sea it has been at the top since April 22nd, when ISORA’s opening day saw season-starting coastal races on both sides of the Channel, with the Irish side doing best in turnout, 22 boats starting at Dun Laoghaire and finishing at Wicklow, with Andrew Algeo’s J/109 Juggerknot taking the honours.
It’s thanks to the dogged enthusiasm of people like Stephen Tudor in Pwllheli and Peter Ryan in Dun Laoghaire that ISORA has been kept going to be ready and waiting for the renewed interest in offshore racing. This new enthusiasm stems in part from a reaction against the pattern developing the major cruiser-racer regattas, where some race officers pride themselves on fitting in two or even three races in a day.
For those of the offshore racing frame of mind, one or two starts in a week is quite enough, thank you, and they like their races to take long enough to settle down and develop a character of their own. The feeling among such folk is that modern life ashore is often a case of trying to cram as many starts as possible into each day, and they only find genuine relaxation in an alternative challenge which is taken in a very different kind of time frame.
That – more or less – is the explanation given recently by someone who has succumbed to the charm of the modern ISORA programme, which has become so user-friendly that it even includes Howth’s Lambay Race on June 3rd. Admittedly it has a slightly lower points rating of 0.9, but with 35 miles to be sailed by the big boat classes, it is indeed a miniature offshore race, and one which at times give the taste of the sport at its best in terms of amateur enjoyment and a change from the hassles of shore life.
Thus although they’re both under the broad umbrella of offshore racing, there really could be no greater contrast than that between the sailing of your average ISORA enthusiast, and the sailing of Tom Dolan on the Minitransat circuit.
Growing up on a little farm beyond Kells in County Meath, one day Tom and his father got the notion of going sailing on the picturesque Lough Ramor just up the road, so they bought themselves a sailing boat of sorts in County Roscommon and – self-taught – they did indeed find that sailing had something for them.
Even though the urge lay dormant in young Tom for his school years in Mullingar when Gaelic football and soccer took over his life, it was when he was 19 and at the outdoor activities education establishment Colaiste Dhulaigh, which is spread over four locations in Dublin and Malahide, that the sailing bug emerged again with an introduction to Glenans in Baltimore, and this time he was hooked for real.
Not only was he a natural sailor who was avid to learn more, but he proved to be a brilliant coach. There were others who realized that Tom Dolan was putting even more into sailing than he was taking out of it, and firm friendships were made, none firmer than that with Gerry Jones, who continues to live in Ireland where he has a busy working life. But he also acts as a voluntary agent for Tom, who in 2009 began to get involved in the sailing scene in France, and has steadily increased that involvement until he is now a leading figure in the Ministransat 650 programme.
It is by no means a gilded path he has chosen. Thirty million people in France may be closely interested in sailing, and they’ll take you to their Gallic hearts as you become part of their sailing scene. But the only sailing the Irish general public take much real interest in is the Olympics, and that’s when a medal may be in prospect. So an Irish rookie with very limited resources trying to get on the ladder in France – which is the only real ladder for high level offshore racing – has several mountains to climb.
But he knew what had to be done, and he knew how he could do it, for by this time he was being drawn into the 10-boat Minitransat community in Concarneau, which is well established as the CEMC (Centre d’Entrainement Mini de Concarneau). It sounds rather grand, but every cent has to be counted, and all involved are constantly looking for ways to increase income, maximise the boat’s performance, train and train again, and race.
It’s worth it, as they have the great Gildas Mahe as coach, and last year every major race was won by one of the Concarneau group, including a victory for Tom himself. But getting to this level involved making a living doing deliveries and anything else involving high seas expertise, and using a borrowed Pogo 2 for his inaugural full season in 2015.
The Pogo 650 started life in 1995, and she’s now into Mark 3, one of the mainstays of the entire Minitransat scene. By 2015, the Mark 2 was off the pace, but Tom Dolan stuck at it to gain experience, and it was his father, with whom he’d shared those first sailing moments on Lough Ramor so many years ago, who made it possible to move on. For on his death in 2011, while the family farm was kept, he left Tom a modest legacy, and young Tom decided to blow the lot on getting involved with his own boat, and placed an order for the most basic available version of the Pogo 650 Mark 3.
He had much to do with installing electrics and equipment and just abut everything else from scratch before his new boat was ready to go racing in 2016, but it was well worth it, and by season’s end he was feted in the local press and internationally as “The Flying Irishman”. To keep the show on the road, he and his friend and fellow-skipper Francoise Jambou run their own 650 Training Centre which, with Tom’s brilliant coaching talents, provides a useful stream of income.
But as the sailing level escalates, so do the costs, and he’s very appreciative of sponsorship from home in the shape of Dubarry Ireland and Ding, while the strength of French interest in sailing generally is shown by support from Cellastab, Techniques Voiles, Renostye, Studio des Schizographes and of course his local pub, the Petite Bistro, where he’ll be celebrating the third place in the Pornichet Select 300 tonight, and maybe a toast to success in next Tuesday’s 500 miles race.
As for what it’s like being Concarneau-based on a year-round basis, even with the camaraderie and constant work and training of the CEMC, the winters can be long enough if you don’t line up a sunny delivery trip now and again. It was after one of these to the Caribbean and Montserrat that Tom met the significant other, Karen from Lyons, so now life back in Concarneau has a certain domesticity to it that was formerly lacking.
That said, domesticity is of a very rationed variety when you’re into sailing at this level, and Tom Dolan’s proposed programme for 2017 shows his level of commitment, and the continuing requirement for a solid sponsorship package, as the countdown to the Minitransat on October 1st at La Rochelle continues.
22nd April: Pornichet 350 Select (placed 3rd out of 52 boats)
May 9th Mini en Mai 500 miles
June 8th Trophee Marie-Agnes Peron
June 18th Mini Fastnet 600 miles (two-handed with Francois Jambou)
July 30th Transgascogne
October 1st Mini Transat (from La Rochelle)
Even as the programme is being implemented. Tom Dolan’s supporters behind the scenes are beavering away to put together a support package which will make the Mini-Transat a properly resourced challenge.
And beyond that? Team Tom Dolan are very interested in the confirmation of a decision which is expected to come from the Mid-Year Meeting of the World Sailing Council which is currently under way in Singapore (from May 5th to May 9th). Before it is the final acceptance of an invitation from the International Olympic Council to World Sailing to propose Showcase Events to be held alongside the Sailing Olympiad 2020 in Tokyo to demonstrate the potential of both kiteboarding and offshore racing to be Olympic events.
For offshore racing, the proposal is already taking shape for a 9-12m totally One-Design boat, to be raced two-handed, the fleet for the Showcase Event at Tokyo being envisaged at 18 to 20 boats. It’s emphasized that this is only a showcase, it’s not real Olympics. But it could be a guide for the future, and we’ve no doubt that if such an event were to be held in 2020 beside the Olympics, the participants would regard it as very much for real.
It’s certainly of considerable interest to Tom Dolan and his team, for they’re very aware that you’re in a different league in Ireland when you’re trying to raise support for an Olympic campaign rather than something which is seen as more of a niche interest.
But quite what your traditional offshore racer, setting off in their favourite ISORA or RORC event, will think of the prospect of their beloved sport being sucked down into the Olympic maelstrom is something else altogether - a topic for another day
Go north for decent sailing breezes.....that’s the message being brought home by the Galway crew of the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi as they continue to benefit from much firmer mainly westerly winds over the north of the country writes W M Nixon.
They are now speeding down the Irish Sea within 50 miles of their start/finish point in Dun Laoghaire, on track and sailing at 6.8 knots in best J/109 style. This should keep them a whole day within their self-imposed target of getting round Ireland in a clockwise direction within a week.
But while they may look like staying within one limit, they’ve already exceeded another in style, as their declared target of raising at least €3,000 towards helping the 85 patients receiving Cystic Fibrosis treatment in Galway University Hospital has been swept aside.
They went through the €3,500 mark while breezing along the north coast last night. And as the fund-raising stays open until mid-August, who knows what stratospheric total might be possible for this effort led by Mossy Reilly & Paddy Shryane, with full support from their crew of Dave O’Connor, Louis Cronan, Sophie Skinner, and Jonathan Curran.
Not only has it all been in a very good cause, but they return to Dublin Bay inspired by the magnificence of our coastline and the hugely varied life of sea creatures of all types and sizes to be seen and admired when making the incomparable circuit of Ireland.
The round Ireland voyage by a Galway crew with the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi has seen some good sailing, despite unseasonably light winds or even total calm over much of Ireland.
However, on a venture sailing clockwise from Dun Laoghaire to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis services at Galway University Hospital, the crew of Mossie Reilly, Paddy Shryane, Dave O’Connor, Louis Cronan, Sophie Skinner and Jonathan Curran had agreed that if speeds fell below two knots they would use the engine, as there’s the matter of being back at work by next Monday.
They’d spectacular scenic sailing around the Kerry coast, but since the Blaskets the wind has been less helpful, and it has been full of holes off their own home county of Galway. So they used the motor to get them into Inishbofin at lunchtime today to top up the tank courtesy of Sweeney Oil for free, and have now headed on towards the Mayo coast and the hope of better breezes up towards Donegal.
It’s indicative of the pace of Irish sailing in 2016 that for anyone taking an overview, it takes a bit of an effort to remember what the weather was like for much of our spring, summer and autumn. Admittedly, here in Afloat.ie we may skew recollections, as we’ll always go for a sunny photo or video if at all possible. Yet the cascade of memories of success and memorable events at home and abroad has been at such a pace that even if the sun wasn’t shining or the wind wasn’t obliging, the recollections are good. W M Nixon tries to make sense of the highlights.
If 2016 wasn’t the greatest Irish sailing season ever, then we’ll be happy to take on board proposals arguing the case for other years. And in the fantastic golden year of 2016, the supreme moment was on the evening of Tuesday August 16th, when the entire nation at home – or at least the entire sailing nation – was glued to a television screen of one sort or another, following every twist and turn for Annalise Murphy in the brief but intense drama of the final Olympic Medal Race for the Women’s Laser Radials on the flukey yet undeniably glamorous waters off Rio de Janeiro.
As the weeks and months have passed since, we’ve forgotten that for Annalise to win the Silver Medal, it was a pilgrimage of sorts to put right the pain of missing out so closely on a medal at the 2012 Olympics. We’ve also forgotten that the tension was exacerbated by the fact that the Medals Race should have been held on Monday August 15th, but was blown out to cause an agonizing 24-hour postponement. And we’ve largely forgotten that only three months earlier, the prospects hadn’t seemed at all good for Ireland’s best hope, with a poor performance at the Worlds in Mexico.
Yet we remember just enough of that situation to put into perspective the ten weeks transformation that Annalise wrought within herself. With her dedicated support team, she ensured that she’d become a hugely improved sailor, a fitter athlete and psychologically in a very good place, as she took on the Olympic challenge on August 8th with a cool confidence which in due course received its proper reward.
Thanks to the close focus which was put on the outstanding Murphy medal, we are well aware of the breadth and depth of the backup team which helped to make it all possible. But in the end it was just one lone sailor entirely on her own who was trying to carve out the right route through extraordinarily difficult sailing conditions, racing against the very best in the world. So it is entirely right and proper that Irish sailing will remember 2016 primarily as the year of Annalise’s Silver Medal.
With a peak like this, a manageable review of the season can only re-visit the highlights, so if your favourite event doesn’t come up in the next thousand or so words, that’s the way it when the Olympics come up, which mercifully is only once every four years.
A year hence, we’ll be looking back at a more normal season in all its variety, but for now some further thoughts on the Rio experience fit the bill. For the fact is, the entire Irish sailing team put in a decent showing. Best of the rest of them were Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern in the 49er. Had the chips fallen slightly differently, they might have come home with a medal themselves. But as it is, the fact that they had two race wins would have been a matter of added excitement in any previous year.
As for Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey in the 49er FX, they had one of their best regattas, very much at the races for most of the time, while the very young Finn Lynch – youngest sailor racing the Olympics – may not have been on his best form in the Laser Men’s, but his snatching of the Irish place in this class as late as May 18th in Mexico was testament to his grit, as he still hadn’t fully recovered from an injury sustained in an accident while out on some training cycling.
In fact, if there’s one little lesson which really came home from Rio, it’s the need to keep your athletes in one piece all year round. Our young international-level sailors can be an exuberant bunch, sometimes training and post-event relaxation becomes horseplay, and it was notable that some significant longterm campaigns were knocked off course by silly injuries.
Thus in looking back at the way Annalise’s success was celebrated in the heart-warming welcome home party at the national Yacht Club on Thursday August 26th, a notable recollection is that in thanking all those who had helped her to the Medal, Annalise particularly mentioned the physiotherapist Mark McCabe. For it seems that whatever training and guidance Mark McCabe has been giving her over the years, she has never been hampered by any serious injury or temporary disability.
This may seem a slightly odd point to be making in an annual sailing review, but there’s a lesson for sailors at every level in this. So if 2016 also emerges as the year in which we all learned the benefits of keeping ourselves in good shape and following best practice in sailing fitness, then it will have been be a very good year indeed.
But as the Olympics didn’t take over the stage until the second week in August, an impressive amount of sailing had already been registered. Indeed, it went right back to January when Doug Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan – who sail from Howth but Doug’s from Kilkenny and Colin is from Malahide – returned from Malaysia with the Bronze Medal from the 420 Worlds.
Then in February offshore racing came centre stage with the RORC Caribbean 600 seeing Conor Fogerty of Howth with his Sunfast 3600 Bam! continuing a remarkable programme of Transoceanic criss-crossing (some of it single-handed), the Caribbean 600 “diversion” producing a win in Class 3.
Into April, and attention focused on the Irish GP 14 Association’s superb group effort in getting 22 boats to Barbados for the GP14 Worlds 2016. Merely to achieve that was quite something in itself, but then Shane McCarthy of Greystones, crewed by Andy Davis, emerged as the new World Champion. That provided extra impetus back home as the rapidly developing Greystones Sailing Club worked towards its new clubhouse, which came on stream in May with the hosting of the Cruising Association of Ireland’s Start-of-Season rally.
With the proper season in Ireland under way, June’s highlight was clearly the Volvo Round Ireland race from Wicklow, but before that ICRA had to get in their three-day Nationals at Howth, and despite light winds the programme was completed, winners including John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II in Division 1, Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV in Div. 2, Ken Lawless and Siobhan McCormack’s Quarter Tonner Cartoon in Division 3, and Colm Bermingham’s Elan 333 Bite the Bullet in Division 4.
In the Volvo Round Ireland Race starting June 18th, for the leaders at any rate lack of wind was definitely not a problem. For those biggies, it was a cracker. And as an event, the Round Ireland is back and then some, with 63 entries including George David’s wonderful Rambler 88 and three MODs which sailed the entire course within close sight of each other, and records tumbling at every turn.
Rambler had a brilliant a crew of international talents, and they were able to take every last advantage of the fact that the weather Gods – or more properly the wind Gods – smiled on them. They took monohull line honours in a runaway record time, and then achieved what many would have thought almost impossible for a boat with a stratospheric rating - they won overall on IRC as well.
As for the MOD 70s, with Damian Foxall with Sidney Gavignet on record holder Oman Sailing, and Justin Slattery with Lloyd Thornburg on Phaedo III, there was added home interest, particularly as both Irish stars admitted they’d been so busy all over the world building their sailing careers that they were Round Ireland virgins……
And what a race the trio of trimarans served up for those virgins…... Within reach of the finish in the dark, Team Concise was in the lead in a fading breeze, but Oman Sailing went a little bit offshore and found a fresher air to come in on port tack at first light and nip into the win.
As for any all-Irish contenders, the best performance was put in by the J/109 Euro Car Parks (Dave Cullen), the only Irish class winner, a good marker early in the season, for at the beginning of October the temporary Euro Car parks, long since reverted to her proper name of Storm, won the Irish J/109 Nationals for Pat Kelly and his keen crew from Rush Sailing Club.
July had three major highlights – Volvo Cork Week at Crosshaven, the Topper Worlds at Ballyholme, and the KBC Laser Radial Worlds at Dun Laoghaire. While the numbers involved in the two dinghy events were stupendous, it was Volvo Cork Week which captured public imagination in an unexpected way with the inaugural Beaufort Cup series.
Racing for the trophy named after the famous Irish admiral and maritime researcher, the Beaufort Cup started out to be an event with an international flavour between crews from national defence forces. But then its remit was broadened to include personnel from emergency and security services with maritime links, and in the end 32 owners generously made their boat available for something which perfectly captured the mood of the moment. The amount of goodwill generated was beyond measure, and the win by an Irish Defence Forces crew skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne sailing John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II has given a visionary event an excellent inauguration.
The Topper Worlds at Ballyholme looked like providing an Irish win until the last day, when a fresh northerly swept in with real Belfast Lough vigour to make it a big boys’ game, but young Michael Carroll from Cork hung in gamely and finished fourth overall, while Sophie Crosbie from Crosshaven was first girl and 7th overall.
With a total fleet pushing towards the 350 mark, the KBC Laser Radial Worlds in Dun Laoghaire were almost beyond comprehension, but a pattern was discernible, and what was most encouraging was that at least five young Irish sailors were serious contenders at the very top level.
However, one was head and shoulders above the rest in every way, and this was Ewan MacMahon of Howth. He was right in there pitching for the Gold in some ferocious racing, and though he concluded the series with the Silver Medal, this was serious stuff and the world quite rightly sat up and took notice of a remarkable and developing talent.
Came August, and just two days before the Olympics took all attention, 29ers took to the seas off Torbay in Devon for the annual British Championship, 76 boats in all and just one of them Irish – Harry Durcan and Harry Whittaker of Royal Cork. They won overall by two good clear points, an achievement so brilliant that further comment is superfluous.
Then in August we had of course all sorts of local festivals such as Calves Week out of Schull, but everyone’s thoughts were on the Olympics, with normality only returning after an afternoon and night of celebration seemed to have just about the entire Irish sailing community – and many non-sailors too - gathered in Dun Laoghaire and around the National Yacht Club to welcome home Annalise and her medal.
Cruising being something undertaken at its own pace, reviews of what has been achieved are a matter for more leisurely contemplation in the depths of winter. But in late August a real text-book cruise drew to its close when Neil Hegarty of Cork sailed his Dufour 34 Shelduck into Baltimore after an efficient Atlantic crossing from Newfoundland, with Shelduck blithely coping with two mid-Atlantic gales, one of Force 8 and the other hitting Force 9. There have of course been many other Atlantic crossings during 2016 involving Irish boats, but this successful conclusion of a detailed Atlantic circuit cruise of several years duration really was a model of its kind, a cruise to be savoured.
Other cruises and new additions to the fleet were to be savoured as the Cruising Association of Ireland held its end-of-season rally in Dublin’s River Liffey in mid-September, with a goodly fleet providing the annual entertainment of all the opening bridges being opened at the same time in a neatly choreographed exercise, which succeeded brilliantly in bringing a sense of the sea into the heart of the city.
Meanwhile in nearby Clontarf the 70th Anniversary of the iconic Irish Dinghy Racing Association 14ft OD Dinghy was celebrated in style with a series of well-attended events driven on by the energy and enthusiasm of Ian Sargent, who saw his efforts well rewarded with a memorable Gala Dinner for the class in Dun Laoghaire at the Royal St George Yacht Club, where the concept of the IDRA 14 was first aired way back in 1946.
As for those who like it offshore with a bit of competition, 2016 was a year of further growth for the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, with the season neatly rounded out by a points championship settled in the final race, the overall win going to Stephen Tudor’s J/109 Sgrech from Pwllhei.
The further we got into the Autumn, the better the weather became. So although the All-Ireland Junior Championship at Schull at the end of September raced in the Dave Harte-developed TR 3.6 dinghies was put through successfully despite some very mixed weather in the rest of the country, with Johnny Durcan of Royal Cork the new champion, a week later in the first weekend of October the All-Ireland Seniors were sailed at Crosshaven with racing in the new Phil Morrison-designed Ultra variant of the National 18, and they had weather that was almost too summery on the second day.
But a breeze filled in and it ended up as an absolute cliffhanger, with so many boats tied on points at the end that they’d to go through several permutations of countback to get a result, with RS 400 champion Alex Barry of Royal Cork and Monkstown Bay the Champion of Champions 2016.
October saw Irish interest swing towards the Mediterranean and the annual Rolex Middle Sea Race from Malta with extra Irish interest in three boats in the 107-strong fleet. Conor Fogerty’s ubiquitous Bam! appeared yet again, and though it wasn’t her most successful race, the points accumulated shunted her up to 3rd overall in the RORC Class 3 Points Championship 2016 despite doing only five RORC races, but the Caribbean 600, the Volvo Round Ireland, and the Rolex Middle Sea race all carry extra points weighting.
A better Middle Sea result was obtained by the XP 44 Xp-Act, which came second in Class 4 with her crew including the RIYC’s Barry Hurley and the Irish National Sailing School’s Kenneth Rumball. But our outstanding result was the clear overall win taken by Vincenzo Onorato’s Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino, navigated with pure genius by international star Ian Moore, who hails from Carrickfergus.
This rounded out a remarkable year for the Moore family, as his mother Wendy was Commodore 2016 in Carrickfergus Sailing Clyb, where they were celebrating their 150th Anniversary (as was the Royal Ulster YC across Belfast Lough in Bangor) with events at Carrickfergus including a Hilditch Regatta for boats constructed by the legendary Carrickfergus boatbuilder. He created many vessels of distinction including the 1898 Howth 17s, who in turn arrived in Carrick to help celebrate a year which was to finish in such style in Malta.
Except it hasn’t quite finished yet. Even as we write this. Cork Institute of Technology are in the top three in the 36th Student Yachting World Cup which concludes today in Las Rochelle. And then tomorrow the irrepressible Enda O’Coineen with Kilcullen Voyager will be one of 29 starters along the French Biscay coast off Les Sables d’Olonne, where the Vendee Globe gets under way before a crowd of tens of thousands. Irish sailing in 2016 is truly a complex and endless tapestry………
Last night, National Yacht Club Commodore Larry Power presented American yachtsman Llyod Thornburg and the crew of Phaedo 3, with the Cork Dry Gin Round Ireland Record Perpetual trophy for August's record breaking run. A dinner to celebrate the new Round Ireland Speed Record followed at the Dun Laoghaire clubhouse. Irish World Speed Sailing Commissioner Chris Moore attended.
Thornburg set the new record in his 70–foot trimaran Phaedo 3 just a month after a new record was made by rival MOD 70 Oman Sail. Phaedo 3 crossed the Kish lighthouse start/finish line at Dún Laoghaire, at 04.01.04am on Friday, 5th August 2016, beating the previous world record by approximately 1 hours and 45 minutes.
The 36 hours and 52 minutes time was later ratified by the World Speed Sailing Record Council.
All crew members who were onboard for the world record run attended last night's dinner, including County Kerry's Damian Foxall.
American skipper Lloyd Thornburg has set a new Round Ireland speed sailing record in his 70–foot trimaran Phaedo 3 just a month after a new record was made by rival MOD 70 Oman Sail. Phaedo 3, with Ireland's leading offshore sailor Damian Foxall on board, crossed the Kish lighthouse finish line at Dún Laoghaire, at 04.01.04am this morning (Friday, 5th August 2016), beating the previous world record by approximately 1 hours and 45 minutes. The time has still to be ratified by the World Speed Sailing Record Council.
Thornburg and his crew, including Ireland’s Damian Foxall, set off from Dún Laoghaire on Wednesday at 15.09.00 returning 36 hours and 52 minutes later.
The previous world record of 38 hours, 37 minutes and 7 seconds was set by Musandam Oman-Sail in last June’s Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race.
The latest record comes just weeks after Lloyd and his Phaedo 3 crew won the Round Island Race in the UK, smashing Sir Ben Ainslie’s record, and setting a new record of just 2 hours 23 minutes and 23 seconds, for round the Isle of Wight.
Back ashore at Dun Laoghaire, Thornburg said the crew was exhausted but it was worth every second. “You really appreciate how beautiful this island is when you see it from the coast-side. The first time we came here was when we took part in the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht race last June. We had to come back and do it again and setting a new world record made it all the more worthwhile. It was intense but we’d do it again tomorrow, and we will be back!”
Celebrations will be short-lived however as Lloyd and the crew will be heading straight to the UK for the 2016 Cowes regatta, which kicks off tomorrow, Saturday.
The record-setting crew on board for the record were: Lloyd Thornburg - helm, Brian Thompson - Co-Skipper, Miles Seddon - Navigator, Damian Foxall - Bow, Paul Allen - Trim, Sam Goodchild - Trim, Henry Bomby - Grinder, Fletcher Kennedy - Grinder
Phaedo 3, hitting speeds of over 30–knots, made spectacular time covering two thirds of the northabout voyage from Dublin in a record time but things slowed dramatically in the closing stages yesterday evening when speeds dropped after rounding Tuskar Rock. Speeds as low as three knots brought the tri home past the Wexford coast and the estimated midnight arrival time slipped by with no finisher. Thornburg entered Dublin Bay at 4am, cutting things quite fine at the end.
Although the Round Ireland speed sailing record stood for nearly 22 years, clearly something very special indeed is happening in the Record Breaking Dept in 2015/16 when it is broken three times in little over a year.
Sidney Gavignet and the skipper of Oman Sail broke the 44–hour time set by Steve Fossett's 60ft trimaran Lakota in 1993 that withstood several challenges, including three by top French skipper Gavignet.
The OmanSail MOD 70 finally broke it with a time of just over forty hours in May 2015. Gavignet was back on Irish waters a year later as part of June's three–way MOD division of the Round Ireland Race. With some very exciting sailing on the 700–mile route, he broke his own record with a new sub 40–hour time of just over 38 hours.
Now that the Omani/French record has fallen to an American entry, how long will it be before another attempt is made at what is a very international dimension to Irish sailing?