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Strangford Lough Sailing Calendar 2022 is Published

12th April 2022
Glen keelboats racing at the Narrows Regatta
Glen keelboats racing at the Narrows Regatta

There’s certainly a great variety of racing this season in Strangford Lough.

The Strangford Lough Racing Calendar has just published its fixtures for 2022 and the very busy months till the end of September kick off with the two-day Quoile YC Spring Series hosted at the end of April by the club at the southern end of the Lough.

Eight of the clubs on the Lough will run a variety of events and regattas during this season.

Following on in mid-May are the Squib Northerns at Killyleagh on the western shore of the Lough with the classic 102-year-old River Class holding its Anniversary Series on 25th and 26th June at Strangford Lough Yacht Club at Whiterock, where the following weekend the Club hosts the Ulster Laser Championships, an event which always attracts a big turnout.

That six-mile stretch of fast strong tidal water, the Narrows, at the mouth of the Lough will be the scene in mid-July for the traditional Narrows Series when sailors from all around the Lough and visitors from farther afield, take part over the four days – 11th till 14th July.

The first club to appear in that area was Strangford Sailing Club in 1946 on the west shore of the Narrows and opposite in Portaferry the Cooke Street club appeared, possibly also in the 1940s. It closed in 1956 and re-emerged as Portaferry SC in 1970. From a photograph in James Nixon’s excellent River Class History, it seems that the Narrows Series existed in the 1950s.

The series is made up of four events hosted by Strangford and Portaferry. As told in the history of the River Class. “As with many coastal and lakeside Irish towns and villages, there is a tradition of holding ‘regattas’ in the summer. Both villages probably did so from the early 19th century. Commenting on the long-standing event Fiona Hicks, a lifelong sailing member of Strangford Lough Yacht Club; “There have been regattas in the Narrows since they were invented I would imagine!” Last year this series attracted a big fleet of 140 boats.

The first race on 11th July is the Bar Buoy Race run by Strangford Sailing Club. Again, according to the River Class book, it dates back to the 1950s when Punts and Wychcraft raced between the two towns on the ‘Ferry Course’. When bigger boats wanted to join in a more expansive course round the Bar Buoy outside the mouth of the Lough was set up.

The three regattas, Strangford SC, Portaferry SC and Portaferry Town follow.

Interspersed with regattas and open events are coastal races, namely a race round the South Rock off Kearney Point on the Ards Peninsula eastern coast, the Ardglass race to the fishing port of that name south of the Narrows on the County Down coast as well as the Isle of Man race and cruise.

And an interesting addition to the fixture list this year is the stand alone pre - 50th anniversary of the birth of the Ruffian class in the early 70s designed by the legendary the late Billy Brown with his brother Dickie building the hull of the new boat. It was followed by the smaller Ruffian 23 (produced by the newly formed Weatherly Yachts) and it was to the launch of this successful Quarter Tonner that William was invited for a sail test of the prototype at Portaferry. 

Ruffian 23 debut in 1973Ruffian 23 debut in 1973 photo W M Nixon

The Ruffian anniversary will be organised by Portaferry SC as part of the Sails and Sounds festival in the town on 6th and 7th August.

Event organiser Maura Ritchie said, “We are inviting all Ruffian boats to Portaferry for a fun challenge race and opportunity to see the area where their boats where created; to enjoy the festival and prepare for big one next year where there will be exhibitions, talks, tours and lots of water activities”.

The family of the late Billy Brown and will be in attendance this year and on the actual Anniversary in 2023. Maura continued “They are delighted with the whole programme”.

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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