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Displaying items by tag: Offshore

RORC's Louay Habib is joined by Jack Bouttell and Alexis Loison who talk through sailing some of the biggest races in the world.

Jack Bouttell started racing with the RORC on Piet Vroon's Tonnerre as a teenage bowman and just eight years later he was lifting the Volvo Ocean Race Trophy with Dongfeng Race Team. Achievements also include three Figaro campaigns, including Rookie of the year, and racing with Team Concise on both the Class40 and the MOD70. Jack is still under 30 and now lives in L'Orient, France and is part of the Spindrift Jules Verne Challenge.

Alexis Loison shot to fame winning the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race overall, racing with his father on Night and Day. Pascal and Alexis Loison became the first and only Two-Handed team to lift the Fastnet Challenge Cup. Alexis was part of Géry Trentesaux's Courrier Recommandé - overall winner of the 2018 Rolex Middle Sea Race, and won class in the 2015 Rolex Sydney Hobart racing Géry's Courrier Leon. Alexis Loison is now set for his 15th Solitaire du Figaro with Region Normandie.

Published in RORC
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If we needed a reminder of the central role which the biennial Round Ireland Yacht Race from Wicklow has grown into within Irish sailing and in the global offshore racing context during its 40 years and 20 editions, then the ramifications of its postponement from the 20th June 2020 to the 22nd August is really all that is required to signal the importance of this 704-mile challenge.

In the very complete Coronavirus COVID-19 meltdown of normal life, the numbers of sailors and others advocating such a move – or something similar - had been steadily increasing, as it became increasingly evident that the date was still available and possible, yet needed to be booked well in advance. As the time needed for the countrywide eradication of the disease is still very much an unknown - despite increasingly sophisticated analyses of its progress – the latest possible date for the race while still placing it within the summer season was the one which had to be chosen.

The sympathies of any reasonable person and all experienced sailors – particularly the large numbers who have raced in this very special event – will have been very much with Wicklow SC Commodore Kyran O’Grady and his organising team, together with their new, supportive and understanding sponsors in SSE Renewables, as they grappled with a challenging decision.

2 corum teasing machine2The modern Round Ireland Race has international credentials – France’s Corum and Teasing Machine battle it out at 2018’s start. Photo: W M Nixon

An event of this stature has a dominant position in the entire complex season-long structure of the Irish sailing programme. Thus, even when it had to be postponed by only one week to June 30th in 2018, the rest of the national cruiser-racer schedule in that period of the summer adjusted itself accordingly.

But that was a minor change by comparison with this new two months hiatus during which – if the lock-down is so successful that it can start to be significantly eased – we can expect pop-up regattas and immediate sailing events to be rapidly organised in the best flash mob-style the instant sailing becomes possible again.

In the crazy times we live in, and with everyone probably slightly off their rockers by the time we do get sailing again, it’s perfectly possible that folk will get a taste for this sort of ad hoc arrangement, and a long countdown event like the Round Ireland will seem almost quaint.

3 1980 round ireland start3Small beginnings – the start of the first Round Ireland Race off Wicklow in 1980. The winner was Brian Coad’s Rival 34 Raasay of Melfort (centre) from Dunmore East. Photo: W M Nixon

But by its very nature, the Round Ireland has to be a long countdown event, for it requires participating crews to have logged a certain amount of minimal experience in serious offshore competition, such that one of the strongest pressure groups in urging a specific postponement was the sailing schools, who reckoned they’d find it very difficult to fulfil their quota of qualifiers in such a truncated early season.

Yet with other potential events starting to wave flags about easily re-shaped happenings which can be put together almost overnight, serious Round Ireland owner-skippers are going to find themselves in a quandary, for although a successful offshore racing crew is not a democracy, nor is it an autocracy. Decisions are reached through a sort of osmosis.

Denis Doyle & Moonduster

In these circumstances, the best approach is to ask: “What would The Doyler have done?” Or rather, “What would The Doyler do?” For although the great Denis Doyle of Cork has been gone from among us now for 19 years - having sailed his last Fastnet Race on the Crosshaven-built Frers 51 Moonduster at the age of 81 in 2001 - his sailing inspiration and moral example is so strong that, for an entire generation of Irish offshore campaigners, it’s The Doyler who continues to be our reference point, our ever-present guide, our moral compass.

4 denis doyle4Denis Doyle – he was racing offshore for sixty years

Yet by seeing him as such, we aren’t contravening the great Dwight D Eisenhower’s hallmark of a successful commander, which was revealed here in a fascinating piece about strategy and tactics by that renowned soldier-sailor Commandant Barry Byrne, originally of Wicklow, and no stranger to success in the Round Ireland Race himself.

The word from Commandant Byrne was that Eisenhower was totally supportive of high-level commanders and staff officers who were always planning, but didn’t have some sacred fixed Plan, other than an ultimate objective.

5 jokerII round ireland start5The J/109 Joker II (John Maybury, skippered by Barry Byrne) at the start of the 2018 race, in which she finished second overall. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Thus Denis Doyle, who was racing offshore from the late 1930s until just after the turn of the century, was keen to go offshore racing, and even keener if he felt it was good for Cork, good for Ireland, and good for life generally – his ultimate objective was broad in scope.

So although the first Round Ireland Race of 1980 from Wicklow (see the first set of sailing instructions here) was seen by many in the Irish sailing community as a rather cheeky shot in the dark from a small club, Denis Doyle in Cork saw that it was good, and with his new Moonduster built in 1981, he arrived into Wicklow with this marvellous boat for the next race in 1982, and his commitment to the Round Ireland Races thereafter was complete, contributing enormously to its long-standing success.

6 new moonduster spinnaker6“This marvellous boat” – the new Crosshaven-built Frers 51 Moonduster in 1981. Photo: W M Nixon

Now admittedly all the Round Ireland Races in which he competed – winning two of them and establishing course records in both 1982 and 1984 – were placed firmly in the final week of June, which thus left the later part of the season clear for other events for Moonduster, events which could be very distant.

For instance, one year he and three others including his ever-supportive wife Mary set out to sail Moonduster post-haste to Sardinia in order to race in the Sardinia Cup. And as well, the elegant varnished sloop was no stranger to the regattas in Galicia in northwest Spain, so much so that when I first ambled into the Monte Real Yacht Club in Bayona after an unusually agreeable Biscay crossing back in 1995, it was to note with interest that the newly-installed board listing Honorary Members was so new it had just two names on it – Denis Doyle and some guy called Juan Carlos. 

7 moonduster spinnaker7Throughout his 20 years with the Frers-designed Moonduster, Denis Doyle kept her topsides varnished. This is how she looked in 1995, at the start of the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race. Photo: David O’Brien/Afloat.ie

So his reach in sailing was truly pan-European, yet once he’d given his commitment to some event and its locality, his commitment was maintained through thick and thin, a commitment which remained through major changes when those changes were caused by circumstances beyond the control of the event organisers. So although the Round Ireland Race is now going to be two months late, I think we know what The Doyler would do.

For sure, the nights will be significantly longer and the weather of late August can be verging into the Autumnal. But those longer nights don’t seem quite so brutal as some of the short nights of June, for the sea has become significantly warmer and if the weather is benign, there’s a velvet quality to those longer nights which can make them a pleasantly memorable experience.

But either way – good weather or mixed – we can be sure that if Denis Doyle were still around, any ideas he might have had about other sailing plans for late August would have been scrapped in the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, and first priority would be given to the original commitment of being on the starting line for the Round Ireland Race, even if Force Majeure has caused it to be held two months late.

8 original moonduster fastnet8The original “white Moonduster”, a 47ft Robert Clark design built in Crosshaven in 1965, making to windward towards the Rock in the Fastnet Race of 1969
He would be there because it’s the right thing to do. This attitude was clearly revealed back in 1972, when Denis Doyle was a flag officer both of the Royal Cork YC and the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and still racing the handsome Robert Clark-designed Crosshaven-built 47ft white Moonduster of 1965 vintage. The core event of the season was one with which he was particularly involved, an RORC Cowes to Cork Race after Cowes Week, something which promised great sport for a large entry.

9 original moonduster cork9The original Moonduster manoeuvring before the start of the 1970 RORC Cork-Brest Race, after the RORC fleet had raced Cowes-Cork as part of the Royal Cork YC Quarter Millennial celebrations. Photo: W M Nixon

But as 1972 progressed, the Troubles in Northern Ireland deepened rapidly with much bloodshed, and the top management in the RORC became jittery about their fleet racing to “war-torn Ireland”. Denis assured them that nowhere was further and safer from the northern troubles than the race’s destination at the Royal Cork YC in Crosshaven, but he was over-ruled, and the decision was made to race instead from Cowes to Santander in Spain.

Denis took this rebuff in his usual calm way, and entered Moonduster for the 1972 RORC Cowes-Santander Race. As was her wont, Mary Doyle went out to Spain to be ready to welcome her husband and his crew at the finish. And as Moonduster glided up the river, there indeed was Mary, coolly stylish as ever, elegantly waiting beside the smoking ruins of the Real Club Maritimo de Santander. It had been blown up by Basque Separatists the night before.

Published in Royal Irish Yacht Club

Offshore Sailing Guru Casey Smith shares his thoughts on how to remain focussed during long periods at sea in this latest North Sails article. When we get back to racing later in the season this could be really helpful for all of the ISORA and Round Ireland racers looking to up their game.

Day after day, mile after mile, distance racing reminds us of that never-ending feeling of being stuck in one place for extended periods of time. Hear more from Casey Smith (CS) how to cope with those long periods of isolation where you can only do so much. Casey is a two-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran and was a key member onboard during all of Comanche’s record runs and race wins. Casey knows a lot about being stuck out at sea, but still finds humour in the little things and gets his job done, which is most important.

We hope you enjoy the read here

Published in North Sails Ireland

Coronavirus may have postponed tonight's official launch party but there's no stopping interest in June's SSE Renewables Round Ireland offshore race that gets underway in 14 weeks time.

The prospect of some potent international entries into this year's race is adding extra spice to an already a bullish entry for the 21st edition.

The 2020 race from Wicklow Sailing Club is already being billed as a potential 'record' one by organisers and that's quite an achievement given the year's packed offshore fixture list.

The much-rumoured entry of the French offshore great Teasing Machine plus the entry of a JPK 10.30, according to an Afloat source. has the potential to make this a very special international race indeed. 

Launched in July 2017 with success in the 2017 Rolex Middle Sea Race, as its class winner and third overall, Owner Eric de Turckheim's Teasing Machine is a well blooded offshore racer having also competed in the Sydney-Hobart race.

JPK 10.30A new JPK 10.30 design could be on the cards for June's Round Ireland Race Photo: Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

The solid take-up defies early fears that the race might have struggled with other key fixtures such as early July's Kingstown to Queenstown Race and the Morgan Cup from Cowes to Cork Week.

Entries received to date include Malta, UK, USA, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, France, Germany and Ireland while the race is a starred event in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's calendar meaning more overseas entries are likely. The largest entry is the 21m Neptune 3 from Malta skippered by Greg Miller. She will be joined on the start line by former Round the World boat 70-footer Telefonica Black under Lance Shepard from the UK.

Round Ireland is the second longest race in the Royal Ocean Racing Club calendar and first race took place in 1980 with only thirteen boats. Since then, held biennially, the fleet has grown steadily, attracting a record 64 entrants for its biggest ever edition in 2016 which four years later may yet be eclipsed.

There are a number of classes in IRC in which boats and their crews can compete, including IRC 1 – 4, Z class, ISORA, a ‘Two-handed Class’ and a Team Prize. The 2016 race saw the introduction of multihulls sailing under MOCRA rules. The 2018 race saw the introduction of a new Class 40 category. In the past, boats competing have ranged from a 98-footer former “round the world” maxi, to club boats one third the size, with all shades in between.

Some of the latest entries are Cork Harbour boats with double winner Cavatina and the Grand Soleil Nieulargo both signed up in the past fortnight. Last weekend, the new Sun Fast 3300 was launched at the Royal Irish Yacht Club and this new marque from Jeanneau will race the circuit under the burgee of Kinsale Yacht Club.

W M Nixon will preview all the latest Round Ireland entry news in his weekly blog on Afloat this Saturday here.

Published in RORC
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After April's Transatlantic race, Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is planning to bring his boat Smurfit Kappa to Ireland for six weeks to trial some potential female sailors with a view to forming an Irish campaign for the two-handed offshore class for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“I have had a couple of women who are interested approach me and so we will do some sailing and see how we get on. But this period will also allow me to do some data analysis with an Irish company who are keen to help me generally on data and performance analysis.”

The Transat AG2R will be a big test not just for the two co-skippers but for the Figaro Beneteau 3 boats which have never raced on such a long ocean passage.

“Keeping the boats dry below and stopping water coming in is the big test. There were problems enough on La Solitaire in the Celtic Sea so we really have been working on what can be done.” He explains, “I am really looking forwards to racing hard two-handed to be able to really push the boat. And there should be a chance for a good rest afterwards. La Solitaire is what matters and I want to be doing all I can to arrive at the start rested, focused and ready to put three good, solid legs together.”

Solo Maitre CoQ Starts on Monday

The 2020 season for the Figaro class is fast approaching with the Solo Maitre CoQ due to start in Les Sables d’Olonne, France on Monday. Irish solo racer Tom Dolan is pleased to have achieved a much more balanced, clearly focused build-up seeking to make last year’s weaknesses into strengths and return a set of consistent good results.

The Solo Maître Coq comprises two days of coastal courses followed by a two-day offshore race and is an important warm-up, a chance to benchmark against the fleet following the winter and early spring training period. It is an opportunity to check the boat is perfect before April’s demanding Transat AG2R from Concarneau to Saint Barths in the Caribbean. The pinnacle event of the season is once again La Solitaire du Figaro which takes place in September.

“One thing I have been working hard on is my personal preparation and management ashore and afloat.” Dolan asserts, “ Last year with the boat being new it was a bit of a mad scramble for everyone to find the time to train and to prep and optimise the boats. Maximising sailing time whilst requiring time to fix and optimise the systems, and remember it was all compressed by technical faults, all added up to a tiring, stressful season. Looking back that definitely impacted on my decision making and for sure making wrong decisions impacted much more on my season than any lack of boatspeed at any one time.”

“I am just trying to be more disciplined on and off the water so I can put myself in the best position to make good decisions when they really count.”

“So I am working from my programme as much as possible that makes things like safeguarding days off and not sliding into working on the computer and messing with the boat. Rest is vital and he has been taking time to learn from the meteo books and doing as much homework about the race courses, looking at different scenarios now so I feel prepared. I have just re-read all the information about the Vendée weather for example whereas this time last year I was worried about if blocks were in the right place.”

Dolan has worked hard on his pre-season preparation with his sailmaker Technique Voiles and feels he has made further gains. “It is a work in progress as it always is but with the cable-less gennakers I feel there is a definite gain but we will have to see against the whole fleet.

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Following a request for information to allow for a Paris 2024 Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore Equipment market assessment, World Sailing has received a positive industry response from Manufacturers and Class Associations. In December 2019, World Sailing issued a Request for Information (RFI) to engage manufacturers and classes in the discussions around the Equipment.

The Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Competition will, for the first time ever, feature a Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore Event that will test the mental resolve and physical attributes of the sailors competing. The plans for the new Olympic class have met with great interest in Ireland where a number of teams are already aiming to contest the single 2024 berth.

At least three of the marques that will sail in Ireland in 2020 feature in the list of 12 including the new J99, the Figaro 3 and the brand new Sunfast 3300 that is due into Kinsale next month.

Figaro 3 3365Beneteau's foiling Figaro 3 is one of the models proposed

World Sailing received 12 responses from manufacturers and designers who provided information such as technical data including production capacity, handicap certificates, statements of suitability for double-handed sailing, sailors endorsements and existing fleet sizes.

The following manufacturers and classes responded to the RFI:

  • Dehler 30 OD
  • Django 8s
  • FarEast 28 R
  • Figaro 3
  • J88
  • J99
  • J105
  • JPK1030
  • L30
  • Sunfast 3300
  • TEN2
  • Vector6.5

At World Sailing's 2019 Annual Conference in Bermuda, World Sailing's Council, the main decision-making body of World Sailing, approved the decision-making process for the selection of Equipment for the Event.

Sun Fast 3300 1The new Sun Fast 3300 on the dock

The criteria for suitable Equipment for the Olympic Offshore Event will be published no later than 31 December 2020 and the Equipment will be selected no later 31 December 2023. With regards to the qualification events, a list of Equipment that meets the qualification criteria shall be published no later than 31 December 2020. It is expected that the criteria will give the widest possible choice of suitable equipment, giving many manufacturers the opportunity for their equipment to be selected.

Francis Joyon will begin the final Act of the IDEC SPORT ASIAN TOUR at around 0900hrs UTC on Saturday morning with an attempt at the Tea Route record.

On this legendary route between Hong Kong and London, the reference time has been held since 2018 by the Italian, Giovanni Soldini. Once again with his small crew of four, including the boat captain Bertrand Delesne, the assistants and crewmen, Antoine Blouet and Corentin Joyon and his faithful friend, Christophe Houdet, Francis will be sailing on the route he sailed to get to the Far East at the end of last year, but this time in the opposite direction and without stopping. During his outward voyage, he set a new record for the Mauritius Route between Brittany and Mauritius and two new reference times for the trips between Mauritius and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), and then between Vietnam and Shenzhen in China. His latest goal is to complete the voyage back to Europe in a time below that set by the 70-foot trimaran, Maserati and Giovanni Soldini’s crew of 36 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes, when they averaged 17.4 knots.

Following the route taken by the big clippers of the past

“We left Shenzhen yesterday for Hong Kong and the starting area for the record.” Francis is not planning to hang around and intends to set sail on Saturday morning at around 0900hrs UTC. By then, he will have carried out the final adjustments aboard the boat, tightening the tension of the mast and loading up the supplies for the long sprint that lies ahead of around 13,000 theoretical miles. “We have done our utmost in conditions that were not that simple to check the condition of the boat,” added Francis. “The crew is really enthusiastic about this so full of history, symbolising the trade between the British Empire and China. We shall indeed be bringing some tea back to London, as the big clippers of the past used to do. This time it will be organic tea from a fair trade source, as that was something that was important for Christophe Houdet.”

Risk of a cyclone in the Indian Ocean and suspense in the Atlantic

The route is largely characterised by the trade winds that the IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran is looking forward to. “We shall be setting off in some decent conditions,” explained Francis. “They are nothing special, but it does mean sailing downwind in the NE’ly trade winds as we head towards the Sunda Strait and the awesome calms that punished us so much on the way out here. It looks like it is going to be particularly calm around the Equator. Once into the Indian Ocean, there is the risk of a cyclone, where we could face average winds of 35 knots, but we will continue to sail downwind.” Sailing the vast distances in the South and North Atlantic will, as usual, mean dealing with the large Saint Helena high-pressure system in the South and the Azores high in the North, before we make our way right up the English Channel towards the Thames Estuary. “This Tea Route is really the big one for us in our epic adventure,” added the skipper of IDEC SPORT. “Christian Dumard, our weather advisor, expects to see us reach the Cape of Good Hope within the record time. So, there should be a lot of suspense on the climb back up the Atlantic.”

Published in Offshore
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It is still possible to sail in Irish waters in your own cruiser-racer without involving enormous expense. You just have to be prepared to do it in a boat of economical size which is far from being the newest available. Admittedly you have to be skilled in your own maintenance in continuing to get full use from equipment which is well-proven through years of experience in its use. Then too, you have to be carefully selective in finding a mooring or berthing location which doesn’t cost the earth, and you have to be modest in your expectations of what you can achieve afloat, particularly if there are racing ambitions in the equation.

Of course, it is increasingly possible to sail in charge of a boat without having to own one. Talented potential Sailing Masters are soon identified by owners keen to win. And the development of boat rental is only in its infancy in much of Ireland on the sea coasts. Yet it’s obviously the only way to go for people with a reluctance to become too totally involved, their “rent it” approach reflecting today’s developing Tasting Menu Lifestyle.

drakes pool cork2Drake’s Pool in Cork Harbour, a haven for those for whom boat-owning is a vocation

But for some, boat-owning is a vocation in itself. In fact, for some simply owning a boat is what it’s all about – the sailing is secondary. But whatever your way of looking at it, and at whatever level it’s made, the fact is that sailing is first and foremost a vehicle sport, and that involves costs which don’t arise in more straightforward athletic and other arena sports, which have the added advantage of the possibility of spectators prepared to pay to watch the action.

That generates a cash flow which – even with the most advanced new communications technology to follow a boat race – is difficult for sailing to provide. Yet despite that, sailing requires a significant capital outlay at some level, with a continuing rate of expenditure for it to happen at all.

The problem is rapidly exacerbated when international competition is expected as part of the programme, For sure, we can get reasonably inexpensive sailing if we stay at home on our relatively sparsely-populated little island with its wide choice of natural harbours, and freely available sailing water.

But if we seek the intensive sailing competition which is more readily available in the sailing areas used by highly-concentrated and affluent populations, the costs start to rise astronomically. And Ireland’s relative isolation immediately imposes that built-in travel expense at the most basic level before we’ve even got to the scene of the action.

The challenge which this poses was highlighted a month ago when Irish Sailing invited expressions of interests from individuals and teams – crews if you prefer – who might commit towards a campaign which could result in selection to sail for Ireland in the proposed two-person offshore racer – one woman, one man – which will feature in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

L30 sailing3Designed by Olympic and Volvo Racer Rodion Luka of Ukraine, the L30 will be used for the World Offshore Championship 2020 in Malta in October

The sailing events in 2024 will be staged at Marseilles. It’s a significant distance from the main Olympic focus in Paris, but as it will involve racing on Mediterranean waters, 2020’s Offshore World Championship in concert with the Middle Sea Race in Malta at the end of October is seen as part of the buildup.

Irish Sailing made it clear that at the moment no funds are available for this new area for Olympic sailing, and with the level of longterm commitment involved, coupled with the annual Christmas/New Year hiatus in any official administration, we would not expect an announcement of definite plans at this early juncture.

But what it does mean is that there will be a clearcut regatta structure with boats of the Ukrainian Rodion Luka-designed L30 class available in Malta in the Autumn, and inevitably the overall framework of the new Olympic class circuit will draw on experience gained by the French offshore racing experience over fifty years and more in organising events like the Figaro, the MiniTransat and other majors where Open 40s and IMOCA 60s feature prominently.

Thus yet again we’ve to face the reality that any young Irish sailor keen to make the grade on the international offshore scene as an individual achiever - rather than as a professional crewmember - has to do it through the highly-structured French setup, as is currently seen with Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy with the Figaro circuit, where Conor Fogerty is also involved.

L30 sailing4The L30 is multi-purpose, and like the JPK range, it aims to provide a genuine cruiser within the racer parameters.

As for the additional cohort which will emerge from the Expression of Interest invitation, we would hope to see the names of Dillon, Rumball, O’Leary, Kenefick and others appear. But until the list is made official, we can think of many perfectly valid reasons why some top sailors of proven offshore ability would react with: “Thanks, but no thanks”.

For inevitably, the new Olympic offshore racing project will see increasingly complex official administration and detailed multi-media coverage, such that the tone of the event is beginning to seem a whole world away from the almost buccaneering atmosphere which prevails around established offshore classics, where larger-than-life characters put together colourful campaigns which reflect individual flair, enormous energy, and maybe very deep pockets too.

It’s a scenario that has seen imaginative solutions which achieved success in times past. But equally sailing history reveals occasions when possible solutions to the challenge of long-distance campaigns were less than satisfactory. To revert to the Olympics for one instance, back in 1964, the first Japanese Olympics post World War II were staged in Tokyo.

In its favour, it has to be said the event was staged in late October, when the weather is much less oppressively hot and humid than will be the case in July this year. But for the small Irish sailing team in 1964 of a Dragon skippered by Eddie Kelliher and crewed by Rob d’Alton and Harry Maguire, and a Finn sailed by Johnny Hooper, the sheer distance and the paucity of resources proved a major drawback.

olympic1964 dragon crew5Ireland’s 1964 Olympic Dragon crew in Japan were (left to right) Rob d’Alton, Harry Maguire, and skipper Eddie Kelliher.

There was no question of shipping Kelliher’s successful Dragon Ysolde to Japan, so – like three other far-travelling teams - they took up the offer of a boat chartered from the small Dragon fleet in Japan, and brought their own sails. But once there, it emerged that the chartered boat had a mast so flawed that they had to scour the store-yard in search of a replacement, and as soon as the boat was put afloat it was discovered that the rudder was so faulty that they’d to lift out again and work round the clock in order to be able to sail.

Not surprisingly the boat’s performance overall was woeful, yet despite that they were usually in the frame in the early stages, getting good starts, and managing in one race to be first at the windward mark. But at the end, as Team Manager Leo Flanagan of Skerries reported, while they did finish as best overall of all the chartered boats, any future involvement in the Olympics must necessarily involve bringing the team’s own boat, as the three medallists had boats which were in a league of their own.

Fifty-six years on, and the Dragon class is Olympic sailing history, while thriving as never before as a private International One Design boat in its own closed circuit. As for the Olympic ideal, that is now for the host country to supply all boats on site for total uniformity, in the expectation that crews will already be well experienced in the boat types either through fleets in their own country, or in clusters based on groups of nations.

Either way, it is going to involve Irish crews in travel and all other expenses of overseas campaigning within a framework which – with 2024 already accelerating towards us – is going to be set by the French way of doing things, but it’s going to be the French way with an even further overlay of official administration set in a very European context.

For the fact is that the French sailing scene is so large and complex that within it you can find colourful instances of creative and imaginative individuality in non-Olympic sailing, but nevertheless in the 2016 Olympic Sailing Games they returned with three medals – a Gold and two Bronzes.

It’s a respectable enough total, but not outstanding, so success for France in the additional Offshore Class to the Paris Olympics will be a matter of intense ambition. Yet it could well be that the process of getting selected for such a coveted role in a very clearly designated route to nomination will be so fierce as to be psychologically damaging.

pen duick howth seventeens6The inspiration. Eric Tabarly’s beloved classic Fife cutter Pen Duick (built in Cork Harbour in 1898) at the Festival of Sail in The Morbihan in Brittany in May 2018 with boats of the Howth 17 Class (built in Carrickfergus in 1898)

For the great joy in assessing French sailing achievement is in relishing the unfettered inspirational individuality of the people involved, something which goes right back to the achievements of Eric Tabarly and beyond. These days, the spirit is well evoked by many top sailors, but one whose has genius in finding visionary logistical solutions on a high level is Gery Trentesaux.

We’re reminded of this with the news that his multiple-race-winning First 40 of ten years ago is joining the fleet in Dublin Bay. For although most folk will assure you that it is wellnigh impossible to get the mighty firm of Beneteau to change the specification of any of their middle range boats during construction, as the boat coming to Dublin Bay proves, the bould Gery was able to get them to give it a special hull lay-up and a completely new keel design, so this is no ordinary First 40.

After that, there was a meeting of minds when Gery linked up with boat-builder Jean-Pierre Kelbert, and he took the then-new JPK 10.80 to Cowes Week, where the hottest boat in the Solent was Adam Gosling’s Corby 36 Yes!. Once upon a time she was Peter Wilson’s Mustang Sally based in Howth, but in Cowes had been given a complete makeover to become the new Yes!, and Cowes Week champion two years running.

michael boyd gery trentesaux7 Ireland’s Michael Boyd (when Commodore of the RORC) with Gery Trentesaux

Things seemed to be following the same route the following year when Yes! and the new JPK arrived together at the weather mark in the first race, and then set off on a spinnaker reach, with the French boat’s spinnaker being trimmed by an amiable-looking bald guy smoking a pipe. By the time they reached the next mark, the JPK was at least a quarter of a mile ahead, without much apparent effort.

It was the fact that the bald guy felt relaxed enough to be calmly smoking pipe that did it. A new Yes!, a dark blue JPK 10.80 designed only for day racing, was soon on the way, and she launched her career by winning overall in the Round the Island Race the following year with Nin O’Leary calling the shots.

But Gery Trentesaux had by this time moved on, with his JPK 10.80 winning the Fastnet Race overall, and he soon had an idea of purest logistical genius. The JPK 10.80 really is a genuine cruiser-racer, and one of the boats was cruising the Pacific. Her owners were persuaded to shape their course for Sydney, where Gery and his crew were waiting with a completely new wardrobe of top racing sails, all nicely in time for the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2015.

courier 2015 rshr8Same name, different boat – Gery Trentesaux’s borrowed JPK 10.80 Courier de Leon (with a Pacific Islands port of registry in Noumea) on her way to second overall in the 2015 Rolex Sydney-Hobart. Photo Rolex/Borlenghi

It was a very elegant solution to the challenges of long-distance campaigning, and in this their first Hobart Race, they were rewarded by taking second overall, a success which added to the mythology of the JPK story, which now includes Rolex Middle Sea Race wins and class dominance in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, while last month’s Paris Boat Show saw Jean-Pierre Kelbert unveil the model of his latest baby, the JPK 10.30.

jpk 1020 new9Jean-Pierre Kelbert with the model of his new JPK 10.30 at last month’s Paris Boat Show
Other French international campaigners have come up with other solutions to the challenges of a privately-funded campaign in the Sydney-Hobart Race, and the recent 2019 race saw an interesting one with Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet.

daguet racing10The Ker 46 Daguet (formerly Patrice) in training for the Sydney-Hobart race

Puzin won the French Mediterranean Division 1 IRC championship in 2017 with his actively-campaigned Mylius 50 of the same name. But he reckoned that the hassle of getting the boat to Australia was out-weighed by the possibilities of having his own boat Down Under, so he bought the successful Sydney-based Ker 46 Patrice and after a massive re-vamp she re-appeared as the very green (as in leprechaun green) Daguet 3, racing to Hobart with a crew of several greats of French sailing such as Nicolas Troussel, Thomas Rouxel, and Sam Goodchild on board.

They certainly had their moments in the recent Hobart dash, giving Ichi Ban a hard time at one stage, and being indicated as overall leader at another. But in the end while they’d a first in ORCi-Div 2 and a fourth in IRC–Div 2, the relentless Sydney-Hobart grinding machine pushed them down to 29th overall in IRC.

daguet berthed11Daguet berthed in Hobart, where she acquired the nickname of Kermit. Photo: Ian Malcolm
daguet berthed12Daguet in Hobart. She may have slipped down the rankings after being first at one stage, but when the race is over the boat and gear still have to be cleaned, dried and stowed. Photo: Ian Malcolm

Nevertheless, French offshore racing now has a competitive proposition based in Australia and ready to go, and we may hear more of Daguet 3 in the months ahead. Meanwhile in Hobart, that totally green shade of green did not go unremarked, and the unfortunate Daguet 3 found herself nick-named Kermit, a bit of drollery which works very well at several levels, but none of them is politically correct in these very polite times…

Published in Olympic
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Professional sailor James Carroll overcame the disappointment of a dismasting in 2018 to win class two of October's Middle Sea Offshore Race on Stefan Jentzsch's Black Pearl, a German Carkeek 47. Here the Dublin Pitman, Sail Trimmer and Driver recounts the race and reveals plans for a new and bigger Black Pearl for 2020.

With the addition of a brand new bulb and an owner and crew hungry for victory, Black Pearl occupied pole position as we reached the home stretch in the 2018 Middle Sea Race. Following a very windy downwind leg with the A4 spinnaker, there were the customary squalls, thunder and lightning to contend with, which we have come to expect with the Middle sea race. We rounded the island of Lampedusa and were leading the race overall on IRC. We came up to a reaching angle with the J3 on a reaching strut, genoa staysail and full main. It was 4 am and pitch dark with the wind blowing at 25-30kts. We were getting ready to reef when we got hit by a gust and then heard a huge crack from the mast. It had snapped in the middle and fell directly to leeward.

dismastDismasting and (below) jury rigged

dismast black pearl

Thankfully nobody was injured, but we needed to get the situation safe and ensure the mast did not puncture a hole in the side of the boat. After over an hour of cutting and securing the broken pieces, we limped back to Lampedusa to effect repairs and come up with a plan. Due to bad weather conditions, it was three days before we could depart. Eventually, we motored back to Malta under jury rig. It was a devastating outcome for the owner and crew given that we were so close to winning.

We decided to ship the boat to Valencia to assess the damage, make repairs and commission a new mast. The new mast would be built by Hallspars Holland and was to be shorter. Jib area would stay the same. Spinnaker area reduced slightly and the mainsail area would remain the same, with a shorter P. The goal was to improve upwind performance and reduce slightly the downwind performance. With the lower sail plan and bigger bulb, it resulted in a lower CG and improved upwind performance particularly in waves and we were also faster reaching. Most importantly our rating also fell 3 points.

Unfinished business

Our first outing with the new mast was the Giraglia Race in June, which ended in disappointment as we were forced to retire. All the pressure was now on the Middle Sea Race where we felt we had some unfinished business.

We had a longer than usual pre-race prep of 4 days in Malta and felt in good shape for the race. After a 30-minute start delay due to wind, we started in 5-7 knots Southeasterly. We found ourselves ghosting over the start line at the pin end and had a perfect start. A beat out of Grand Harbour to the offset mark. We then rounded to an A1 spinnaker and a run down the coast. Passing slower boats was very tricky and there were big gains and losses. After clearing the spectator mark we were fetching at a TWA of 50-60* towards Sicily’s southeastern tip. We set-up to be the most easterly boat in the fleet.

Blakc Pearl racingLight airs at the start of the '19 race

Our pre-race weather advice showed that the wind would go very light approaching the Sicilian coast and recommended to be east of the fleet. Unfortunately, that proved incorrect and we woke on the morning of Day 2 with a 18-mile deficit to the leading 50 footer. Instead of dwelling on the loss we focused on our approach to Messina and the strategy for getting through. By midday, we were VMG running in 6-10 knots and worked to the mainland shore. Committing to mainland shore reduced the time spent in foul current and there was also better pressure on the shore.

Black Pearl

Once clearing Messina, we realised that we had closed the gap on the group of 50fters and could see their lights as the sunset. Two gybes early to stay clear of an area of light winds and we laid through to Stromboli. A favourable left shirt and we set-up for a wide approach of the island, as the wind shadow had caught us out four years earlier in the same race. VMG running in light winds, we gybed five miles stood off Stromboli. We were treated to a few hours of fireworks from the erupting volcano and were now right in touch with our competition and the wind was getting even lighter.

course

On the morning of Day 3, we were set-up for a long day of VMG downwind chess, trying to stay out of areas of light winds while keeping the boat moving. We were changing between the wind seeker (our Spinstay tacked off the end of the bowsprit on the fractional halyard) and our A1 spinnaker. When the A1 would fly, then that was the sail and when it started to collapse, we would change bareheaded to the Windseeker. With the Windseeker we could keep the boat moving albeit at 1-2 knots of boat-speed, just about keeping steerage. There was a leftover westerly swell and that made it very hard to make progress west on a port gybe, so we needed 4 knots of wind speed or more to make progress on port gybe. This light airs requires maximum concentration from all the on-watch crew and lots of patience. We remained focused and input on strategy from all crew was considered.

During the morning we had passed a number of our 50ft competitors and the front of the fleet compressed. We were now sailing with the Volvo70s and 80 footers. Rambler was the only boat that had got through the light airs and was on the leg to Lampedusa. Finally, the wind steadied at 95-105TWD and 6-7 knots and this allowed us to get onto port, bank our gains and be laying Capo San Vito (the north western tip of Sicily). On approach the breeze went forward and we were hard on the wind passing close to the islands off Trapani. We were behind the IRC 52 Arobas and her stern light two miles in front, meant we were right back in the race.

The breeze built overnight which was expected and a nice jib change from J1 to J2 just before we exited the wind shadow of one of the islands, set us up nicely for the increase in pressure. Once we cleared Trapani and got away from the shore we had a solid 18-20 knots fetching on port at the island of Pantelleria. The sea was rough and it was a bouncy ride onboard. Rambler was now finished as we rounded Pantelleria and braced ourselves for the leg up to Lampedusa. We had a nice setup with the J2 and a reef in the mainsail. When the breeze was sub 20 knots we could be at Full main and when it was above 22 knots we were at 1st reef. This made for very efficient moding, rather than trying to do a change to a smaller jib. We took a couple of tacks on shifts and made some good gains relative to the boats that did not.

We were still just in touch with Arobas as night fell on Day 4 and on approach to Lampedusa. Some tricky short tacking up the Lampedusa shore and we were now on starboard tack fast upwind angle on the leg back to Malta.

The breeze got lighter as we approached the channel between Malta and Gozo. We took 2 tacks and laid the channel. The sun was now coming up and the 50fters behind us could clearly be seen. In the channel, the breeze got very light and shifty. We changed to the Masthead cableless Code zero and were reaching at 100TWA at the northeastern end of Malta. A change on deck to have the J1 ready was a key speed decision and so when we exited the channel it was J1 upwind to the fairway mark off the finish. Rounding the fairway mark we hoisted the A2 and ran to the finish.

We knew that we had beaten the Class 2 boats behind us as they gave us time, but unfortunately we were not sure where Arobas had finished and so we needed to wait. A relief when we found out that they had finished just 52 minutes ahead of us, which was not enough time and thus Black Pearl secured the IRC Class 2 win. It was a great result considering the disappointment of the previous year.

A very worthy winner of the race was Maltese yacht Elusive 2 skippered by a good friend of mine and local man Chris Podesta. They sailed a great race and put a very good campaign together.

A new Black Pearl is now in production and will be an offshore focused carbon 56 being built by King Marine in Spain. The Carkeek 47 is up for sale and looking for a new home. The program for 2020-21 will be to race the new 56 in the offshore classics and build on the successes of the 47.

James CarrollJames Carroll

James Carroll is a professional sailor with experience of competing at the highest level for over 18 years. He has competed in the Volvo Ocean Race, TP52s, Maxi World Championships and the Sydney to Hobart races. Both inshore and offshore racing he specialises as a Pitman, Sail Trimmer and Driver and has filled that role for multiple high profile international teams. With a background in boatbuilding and rigging it has complemented his sailing experience. James has been Project Managed numerous successful racing boat builds and overseen many complex refit projects in Europe, USA, China, Dubai and UK.

Published in Offshore
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A National Yacht Club crew from Dublin Bay have finished fourth in class and fourth monohull in the 2019 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). 

As previously reported on Afloat, the NYC crew made the crossing in the 80-foot Swan yacht Umiko

The transatlantic crew were former NYC Commodore Paul Barrington, Paul Fagan, Teddy Murphy, Dave O’Reilly, Barry O’Sullivan Alan Daly and Brian Uniacke. The NYC sailors were also joined by a father and daughter from Sweden Carl and Carolina Urban. The skipper was Olly Cotterdel. 

UMiko NYCThe NYC crew cross the finish line in St Lucia Photo: Photo Action

UMIKO SWAn

It is the second transatlantic success in as many days for the NYC as cadet member Conor Totterdell finished second in the RORC Transat race.

Published in National YC
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