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We take it for granted, and it’s always there - whether we like it or not. The good old Irish Sea. But could it be that there’s a new and growing awareness of just how much the Irish Sea can offer if you’re interested in cruiser-racing which really does test a boat and crew’s ability to do what the boat was designed to do? In other words, going offshore, and staying offshore for a decent distance of the course, rather than using the boat only for semi-inshore races which could perfectly well be done by craft with no accommodation at all. W M Nixon wonders if the long-forecast re-birth of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association really has been happening while we all were looking elsewhere.

It was some time ago now, several years it must be, when a function was scheduled for the National Yacht Club in the dark days of November. At it, former enthusiasts from both sides of the Irish Sea were going to get together to have a proper-job black tie gala dinner to finally lay to rest the ghost of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, which had been attracting little or no turnouts for events which used to be the backbone of a busy annual offshore racing programme which had been the envy of many comparable sailing areas.

Part of the idea was that by giving it a decent burial, the numerous trophies could be re-distributed to clubs which might find a better use for them, and who knows, but maybe in individual cases specific and historic distance events might be kept going on a stand-alone basis.

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Sunstone (centre) with ISORA racers among the fishing boats in the pre-marina days in Howth during the 1970s. Photo: W M Nixon

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If ISORA could be said to have a single founder back in 1971, it was Dickie Richardson of Holyhead (left), seen here aboard his Ohlson 38 Matthew Walker which he completed with his sons from a bare hull. Photo: W M Nixon

At least that’s my recollection, but it’s vague in the extreme, for although like many the annual ISORA programme used to dominate my summers, those days were long gone, surrendered – sometimes rather unwillingly, it has to be admitted – to growing family demands.

Time was when the husband of the household was expected to be away at sporting things most weekends. But that attitude was changing very rapidly, and you only had to look at ISORA turnouts to see the change in domestic priorities taking place as a fact of life in its new form.

Of course there were some splendid family crews racing offshore involving two and sometimes three generations. But as other forms of sport and specialist interests developed, such crews became increasingly rare, and anyway offshore racing wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. So you could argue that the thing that almost killed off ISORA was the most scary advertising slogan of our times, five seemingly innocuous little words which promote any event or activity which reflects the new domestic priorities.

“FUN FOR ALL THE FAMILY!!!!!!” For dyed-in-the-wool offshore racers of the rather anti-social traditional type, hearing or seeing this chirpy message was like showing the sign of the cross to a vampire on the prowl. And for enthusiasts of the smelly crazy sport of taking a three day weekend to position and return an offshore racer for a distance race involving kindred spirits from God knows where, it meant death by a million painful pinpricks.

So much so, in fact, that we who were formerly addicted were brainwashed into totally abandoning our old ways. Thus when I heard that a dinner was maybe being planned to wind up dear old ISORA, excuses were readily forthcoming for being elsewhere.

Except that reports of the death of ISORA proved to be greatly exaggerated. Memories are vague in the extreme. And anyway I wasn’t there, even though I’d been in and around the birth of ISORA way back in the early 1970s. But in this instance I don’t want to spoil the myth by asking specific questions of those who were there a few years back about that supposed Laying To Rest That Never Happened. For my impression is that, owing to a November mega-gale, the ferry from Holyhead was unable to sail. The Welsh and English contingents didn’t get to the requiem dinner in the first (or last) place. And the Irish crowd enjoyed themselves so much they decided they were going to keep ISORA going after all.

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 The National Yacht Cub, where ISORA was re-born

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Peter Ryan, former Commodore of the National Yacht Club, has played a key role in ISORA’s re-birth

 

Failure is an orphan, but success has parents everywhere. Nevertheless I think few will disagree with the assertion that it is former NYC Commodore Peter Ryan, with the help of Stephen Tudor from Pwllheli, who has done most to keep ISORA going on life support, and then start to revive it actively with sponsorship from Avery Crest when the time is right.

And that right time seems to be right now. ISORA is putting Lazarus in the ha’penny place with a very healthy turnout for today’s 54-mile Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead Race. With 28 boats coming to the line, and it still only mid-May, we’re looking at substantial growth which shows every sign of being sustainable, so maybe we should try to explain the odd appeal of short to middle distance offshore racing.

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Holyhead is the destination for today’s ISORA cross-channel race. The marina in the corner of the harbour known as Porth y Fellyn is a world away from the popular perception of Holyhead as a raw ferry port.

Part of the answer has to be that once you’ve fulfilled all the complex tasks of bringing your boat up to the required standard in terms of equipment and crew qualifications, the actual event itself could not be simpler. The basic simplicity of an offshore race is its USP in today’s ludicrously complicated world. Unlike complex inshore multi-race regattas, there’s just one start, just one course, and just one finish line. Heaven knows but our everyday lives are weird enough and busy enough these days, thus it’s refreshing to find a sport whose basis is so utterly simple.

Of course there are all sorts of complexities of winds and tides and tactics and strategies underlying this basic simplicity. For instance, to an outsider, surey nothing could seem simpler than a race from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead? Believe me folks, it may be a straight line across channel. But once you’re into it, you find the factors involved are infinite in their variety.

Yet underneath it all is this appealing simplicity of just the one start and just the one finish. And it goes on for long enough to build up a silent but strong relationship with the boats and crews you’re racing against. That old sailor’s opinion: “I don’t like the cut of his jib” can begin to have real meaning.

At ISORA’s height when the annual season-long points championship could involve more than a hundred boats when every event was included, the fleet was as diverse as it was long-lived. Today you see boats of the S & S 34 class, or a whole raft of Swans, or boats like Sarnia or Setanta, as being interesting yet still very much alive relics of a different age of sailing. And in this historic list, one boat in particular stands out. When we raced against her, she was called Dai Mouse III and she was owned by a Cheshire publican called David Hague. But nowadays - and for more than 25 years – she is known as Sunstone, the 40ft S&S sloop which Tomy and Vicky Jackson cruise the length and breadth of the globe with such competence that they recently became the latest awardees of the annual Blue Water Medal of the Cruising Club of America, which is tops of the tops.

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Abersoch on the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales is another ISORA location. The clifftop clubhouse of South Carnarvon YC is reputedly suspended from its roof in a masterpiece of engineering.

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Pwllheli provides total shelter at the head of Tremadoc Bay when the ISORA fleet is in port

But for old ISORA hands, the attitude is that Dai Mouse III is doing well for herself, and it’s just right and proper. They could be an odd bunch, the ISORA people. The kind of people who take to offshore racing aren’t people who indulge in passing fads, and throwaway entertainments. They’re literally in it for the long haul. Yet they’re not the kind of people who’ll necessarily attach themselves to the high profile glitzy glamorous offshore events. Rather they go for the straightforward low-key distance races with a strong local tinge, races which provide them with private satisfaction, and an absorbing way of relaxing at weekends.

So obviously it’s not for everyone. In fact, it’s obviously not for the vast majority of the sailing population. Yet it’s not elitist. It’s a form of sailing which appeals to those who may not be the ultimate hotshots in club racing, but give them a moderate offshore challenge, and they come into their own. As for it being accessible, if you show genuine interest you’ll find you get involved, but it’s not for the casual thrill seeker who will be interested in something else entirely the following weekend. And exclusive? Of course it’s exclusive. If you can’t face with continued enthusiasm the thought of being cold and wet and in the dark and probably seasick now and again, then you’re automatically excluded.

Published in W M Nixon

The biggest ISORA fleet in many years gathers at 8am on Saturday morning for a 54–mile race from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Holyhead. 

The number of boats taking part in the race is a record for recent times in ISORA. Although the number of boats taking part in ISORA have been increasing from a low of 3-4 boats in 2007, such numbers have not have not been seen since the late ‘80s.

See the full entry list below.

Saturday morning is the start of first ISORA offshore race of the 2016 Avery Crest sponsored Offshore Series and follows a coastal race to Wicklow a fortnight ago.

The numbers have been boosted by boats obtaining the required offshore experience for the Round Ireland Race in Wicklow in June. The number of entries for the three qualifying races prior to the Round Ireland are similar to the first race. “Tanit”, winner of the Round Ireland Race and now owned by veteran ISORA sailor Robert Floate, will be making its ISORA debut on Saturday. The boat recently won the Round the Isle of Man Race. The race has also attracted some older boats – Darryl Hughes’s “Maybird”, a 1937 Gaffer is taking part in preparation for the Round Ireland. 

ISORA bosses says they hope that the vision of such a large fleet of boats heading off across the Irish Sea will attract those other boats on both sides of the Irish Sea who are thinking about taking part. There is a big social après sail arranged for the finishers in Holyhead Sailing Club.

The course will be posted on the ISORA website, texted and emailed to all entries and shall be available in the NYC on Friday evening.

Boat NameSail NumberClassLatest IRC TCFFull NameSailing Club
ADELIE IRL 9631 IRC 0.987 Peter Hall National Yacht Club Dún Laoghaire
Albireo 3435 IRC 0.939 David A Simpson Royal Irish Yacht Club
Another Adventure IRL3511 (Note IRL 35 FOR RACE 1 IRC 1.029 Daragh Cafferky Other Club than listed below
Applegreen Sail For Kids IRL7963 IRC 0.947 Stephen Mullaney Howth Yacht Club
Aquaplane GBR7878L IRC 1.001 Mark Thompson Pwllheli Sailing Club - Clwb Hwylio Pwllheli Sailing Club
Aurelia IRL35950 IRC 1.077 Chris Power Smith Royal St George Yacht Club
Axiom IRL3709 IRC 1.035 Michael O'Neill Royal Irish Yacht Club
Bam IRL1471 IRC 2-handed 1.047 Conor Fogerty Howth Yacht Club
Flashback IRL 3470 IRC 0.987 Paddy/Don Breen Howth Yacht Club
Harriet Marwood GBR3556L IRC 1.005 Bryan Mullarkey Holyhead Sailing Club
Jackknife GBR8859R IRC 1.152 Mr Hall Pwllheli Sailing Club - Clwb Hwylio Pwllheli Sailing Club
Justjay GBR7709R IRC 1.015 Nigel Ingram Holyhead Sailing Club
Lively Lady IRL 1644 IRC 1.106 Derek Martin Royal Irish Yacht Club
Lula Belle IRL3607 IRC 0.992 Liam Coyne Wicklow Sailing Club
LYNX IRL 7386 IRC 1.044 Kenneth Rumball Other Club than listed below
Maybird GBR 644R IRC 9.999 Darryl Hughes Other Club than listed below
Mojito GBR0947R IRC 1.010 Peter Dunlop Pwllheli Sailing Club - Clwb Hwylio Pwllheli Sailing Club
MoJo GBR8134T IRC 1.007 PAUL HAMPSON Liverpool Yacht Club
Obsession IRL 4513 IRC 0.931 Bryan Dobson Sailing in Dublin (SID) Club
Pink Panther IRL2504 IRC 2-handed 0.94_ Carol Bellamy National Yacht Club Dún Laoghaire
Pipedreamer VI GBR2271L IRC 1.016 Paul Sutton Holyhead Sailing Club
Polished Manx2 GBR 7003T IRC 2-handed 1.029 Kuba Szymanski Douglas Bay Yacht Club
REBELLION IRL 6001 IRC 1.056 John Hughes National Yacht Club Dún Laoghaire
Ruth IRL 1383 IRC 1.016 Shanahan Family National Yacht Club Dún Laoghaire
Sgrech GBR9319R IRC 1.015 Stephen Tudor Pwllheli Sailing Club - Clwb Hwylio Pwllheli Sailing Club
Tan It GBR 731T IRC 1.051 ROBERT FLOATE Isle of Man Yacht Club
Thalia IRL733 IRC 1.028 Leggett Kinsman National Yacht Club Dún Laoghaire
Windshift irl37737 IRC 0.98_ Brian Gillen Royal St Georges Yacht Club
WOW IRL4208 IRC 1.123 George Sisk Royal Irish Yacht Club
 
Published in ISORA

Last Friday, the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire saw a gathering of NYC members who raced in ISORA in the 1980’s. The dinner was attended by over 40 members and guests, representing the skippers and crew of six boats.
Represented there were:
• “Lightening” – Liam Shanahan Snr
• “Emircedes” – Michael Horgan Snr & Peter Ryan
• “Humphrey Go Kart “- Vincent Farrell
• “Eliminator” - Peter Cullen.
• “Boomerang” – Paul Kirwan
• “Avanti “ - (Brendan Briscoe)

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Peter Cullen, Liam Shanahan Snr and Anita Begley

The night was organised by Anita Begley who raced on “Avanti”, owned by the late Brendan Briscoe. Anita also raced on “Emircedes” and “Eliminator”. The dinner was a great social event with amusing anecdotes of taking part in ISORA races being recounted in the many casual after dinner speeches.

Liam Shanahan recounted the fierce competitiveness between “Lightening” and Peter Cullen’s “Eliminator” during races when boats crossed the Irish Sea three times in the race!! Despite the competitiveness during the race, the famous “Spirit of ISORA” was always present when the boats finished.

Present Chairman of ISORA, Peter Ryan, reiterated that is was great to see the keen and constant interest in ISORA by those members who sailed in races over 30 years ago. The memories of those incidents that occurred during and after the races years ago, as recounted by those after dinner speeches, was a testament to the future longevity and success of ISORA.

The evening was such a success that there were suggestions that the dinner could become an annual event and involve all previous skippers and crew who sailed in ISORA in the past.

 

Published in ISORA

Defending ISORA champion Ruth (Liam Shanahan) from the National Yacht Club was the winner of yesterday's first coastal IRC handicap race of the season but not before a protest for redress was lodged following a finish line problem off Wicklow writes Peter Ryan.  Full results are downloadable below.

In a buoyant turnout, 20 boats departed Dun Laoghaire harbour on a 29–nautical mile course for Wicklow.

The J/109 champion made the best of a very light wind start from Dun Laoghaire's Pier Mark as a mixed fleet of cruiser types jostled for a clear lane on a shy spinnaker reach out of Dublin Bay

ISORA Yacht Race

Spinnakers flying – but only just – part of the 20–boat ISORA fleet depart Dun Laoghaire yesterday morning bound for Wicklow. To windward Chris Power–Smith's J122 Aurelia (IRL 35950), the First 40.7 Tsunami (IRL4007) Vincent Farrell and Darragh Cafferkey's A35 Another Adventure.

The first race of the Overall ISORA Avery Crest Offshore Championship 2016 was also the first race in the ISORA Viking Marine Coastal Series 2016 and the Royal Alfred Yacht Club Coastal Series 2016. The weather for the race was like “champagne sailing” except a few degrees colder.

This first race saw the appearance of some new boats to ISORA. Kuba Szymanski’s “Poilshed 2”, Grant Kinsman’s “Thalia”, Daragh Cafferky’s “Another Adventure” and Stephen Mullarney’s “Applegreen Sail for Kids” all took part in this race. Carol Bellamy’s “ Pink Panther” returned to the ISORA fleet after a few years sabbatical.

20 boats took part in the race and another 6 boats took part in the ISORA day race being run from Pwllheli at the same time. This gave a record 27 boats racing in ISORA!

It had been hoped that the course would be to start in Dun Laoghaire, round North Arklow and finish in Wicklow. However, the forecast on the day was for lighter northerly winds than originally thought making the beat from North Arklow to Wicklow impossible against the very strong south going tides.
The Race Committee changed the course shortly before the start to: Start in Dun laoghaire – South Burford (S) – North India (S) – South India (S) and Finish in Wicklow.

As forecast, the winds at the start were light northerly as NYC Commodore, Larry Power, sent the fleet of 20 boats reaching off towards the first mark. Fluky winds and conditions at the start made it difficult for many of the boats to get fast off the start line. Chris power-Smith’s “Aurleia”, Peter Hall’s “Adelie” and reigning ISORA Champion, Liam Shanahan’s “Ruth” were the first boats to break away. Aurelia took a northerly course, Adelie headed south and Ruth took a mid course.

Shortly after rounding the first mark, the boats headed in a run down towards the India Bank against the last of the north going tide. Although the fleet were well spread, there was little change in positions with “Ruth” leading the fleet from the centre. “Aurelia” went far out to sea while “Adelie” gybed in towards the coast. When the fleets merged at North India, the tide had turned and was flowing south at 3.5 knots. The placings remained largely unchanged with again “Ruth” leading the fleet.

John Keogh’s “Windshift” and Byran Dobson’s “Obsession” misjudged the rounding at North India and got swept around the wrong side of the mark. The light winds were not sufficient to propel both boats back to the North India due to the strong tide and they had to retire.

The third leg was the short blast down along the India Bank before the fleet hardened up for the dash to Wicklow. Those boats with asymmetric spinnakers gained hugely on this leg as they were able to hold reaching kites while the other were forced back to white sails and fell behind.

Due to a technical problem at the original finish line, the finisher in Wicklow had to change the line just as “Ruth” was approaching. This led to “Ruth” seeking redress.

“Ruth” took line honours, winning Overall and Class 1. “Adelie” came 2nd Overall and 1st in Class 2. David Simpson’s “Albeiro” took Silver Class.

As the boats finished most made their way into Wicklow harbour for the usual ISORA après sail get together at WSC. There pleasantries were exchanged between crews and tips and comments were freely exchanged. Crews gathered in the sunshine outside the club and planned their next ISORA adventure.

As the race was tracked using the Avery Crest Trackers, the progress of the race can be re-played using the YB app or on the ISORA website

With eight weeks to go to the Round Ireland Race from Wicklow, many in the Irish Sea offshore fleet are using the early ISORA races as a valuable tune–up with yesterday's first race providing many of the conditions that will be experienced in June.

The next race is the first offshore on the 14th May from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead. It is hoped that there will be another large fleet taking part in preparation of the Round Ireland race in June.

Published in ISORA

ISORA expects a turnout of 20 boats for its first coastal race from Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow tomorrow morning. A further 5-6 boats are expect for the ISORA day race in Pwllheli, North Wales.

The course for the race tomorrow is based on moderate northerly winds. The course will be as follows:

Start Dun Laoghaire (Usual at Pier Mark)
Rosbeg East (S)
North Arklow (S)

A Finish at Wicklow will be completed wih boats crossing the line in a Northerly direction, leaving a yellow inflatable to starboard.

Download entry list for the race below.

UPDATE:

The Course for the first race in the Avery Crest ISORA Offshore Series 2016 on Saturday 23rd April, from Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow, has been changed to:

Start
South Burford (s)
North India (s)
South India (s)
Finish in Wicklow crossing line in a southerly direction leaving yellow inflatable to port (p)

Published in ISORA

The Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) has introduced short handed sailing to the Irish Sea offshore game this season, a recognition for the Irish boats acheiving success in the discipline on the international stage over the last few seasons.

Although ISORA has always encouraged short-handed racing (it accommodates single handed racing in its day races) the 2016 initative from Commodore Peter Ryan goes a step further with the new double handed class open to any boat sailed double handed for any of the ISORA races.

Reflecting the drive of the individual for the love of offshore sailing and noting Irish short–handed wins in the 2015 Middle Sea Race and the Round Britain and Ireland Race two years ago, it will be ineresting to see the take up for the new class on either side of the Irish Sea.

The Double Handed Overall Class winner will be determined by the best four Double Handed results for that boat. Race prizes for Double Handed will be allocated depending on the number of boats taking part in the race. Double Handed boats will also qualify for the normal Overall and Class prizes. 

The first race in the Avery Crest ISORA Offshore Series 2016 takes place on the 23rd April with the day race from Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow. 

As the first race of the season it is anticipated that the selected course will allow boats and crew to ease into the 2016 season while having enough time after the race to sample the hospitality of Wicklow Sailing Club while waiting for the north going tide.

The second race of the Offshore Series 2016 is the Pwllheli Bay Day Race also on 23rd April. This race will take the fleet along the scenic Welsh Coastline and out into the spectacular and World renowned sailing waters of Cardigan Bay. After racing the crews will retire to the new Sailing Club in the iconic Academy where there will be opportunities to discuss the 2016 offshore campaigns and the challenge to retain the ISORA Team Trophy again this year.

This sailing season’s highlight is the Volvo Round Ireland Race and it is hoped that this will encourage those boats taking part to gain the required experience and practice in offshore racing by taking part in ISORA.

As Afloat previously reported, this season sees some new boats entering: Kuba Szymanski’s First 40.7. Grant Kinsman’s Sigma 400 and Robert Floate’s Sydney 36 should make some competitive racing for the Class 1. George Sisk’s, ICRA 2015 Boat of the Year and overall winner of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, “WOW” is back racing in ISORA. There are persistent rumours of a JPK 10.8 appearing and a J105 from Wales?

 

Published in ISORA

The ISORA series this year promises extra spice with several new boats entering that could yet threaten the offshore dominance of the J109 design in recent seasons. The new boats on the scene are Kuba Szymanski’s 40.7, Grant Kinsman’s Sigma 400, Robert Floate’s Sydney 36 and there are whispers of a JPK 10.8 entering ISORA too.

This year is also Round Ireland Race year and this brings additional boats to take part in obtaining their required level of experience to qualify for this epic offshore race. Any boat considering doing the Round Ireland Race can qualify by taking part in the ISORA races prior to the Round Ireland in June.

ISORA's four race coastal series, run in conjunction with the Royal Alfred Yacht Club that merged this season with Dublin Bay Sailing Club, will be sponsored by Viking Marine. It is the latest sponsor into the offshore scene with Avery Crest still the title sponsors for the Overall Offshore Series. ISORA also have race sponsors such as Adrian Lee & Partners, LC Tyres and Irish Hospital Supplies. ISORA are finalising sponsorships for other races too.

All ISORA races will be tracked using the Avery Crest YB trackers. This allows the race to be followed by using the YB app or on the Internet.

The first ISORA race will be a coastal race on the 23rd April, starting and finishing in Dun Laoghaire.

As well as providing great racing, ISORA also promotes a great social activity amongst the all the crews taking part, particularly after the Coastal Races. There is always a get “get together” in the National Yacht Club where crews from all participating boats mingle and chat about the day’s activities.

It is also hoped that UCD and Trinity Sailing Clubs will again provide crew to boats taking part in ISORA this season.

Any queries relating to taking part in ISORA can be forwarded to ISORA Chairman: Peter Ryan at [email protected]

Published in ISORA
16th February 2016

Gerry Haggas 1919-2016

For Irish sailors who put in the great times with ISORA from the 1970s onwards for three and more decades, it simply didn’t seem like a proper offshore race unless Gerry Haggas from Pwllheli was taking part with his pale blue Elizabethan 30 Sundancer. He and the boat and the ISORA programme became part of each other. Yet Sundancer was by no means the only boat he campaigned in a lifelong contribution to North Wales and Irish Sea competition, though she was the special one.

By the time he was making regular appearances in the frame with the new Sundancer in classic ISORA events, he could look back with satisfaction to a period when he was setting the pace in the development of Pwllheli as a sailing centre, as he served as Commodore of the 1958-founded Pwllheli Sailing Club (Clwb Hwylio) from 1962 to 1964 with the popular and enthusiastic support of his wife Olive, and was a regular contender as well as a developer of sailing against the magnificent backdrop of Snowdonia in Tremadoc Bay.Elizabethan 30 Sundancer

The late Gerry Haggas chose his boats well - he was most associated with the deservedly successful Elizabethan 30 Sundancer over decades of successful ISORA campaigning.

Yet like many summer sailors in this special area within the sheltering arm of the Lleyn Peninsula, his home was a long way away – it was in Yorkshire, and he was a Yorkshireman through and through in classic style. But he thought nothing of driving many miles over distances which conveniently-placed Irish sailors thought crazy, just to be able to get aboard his beloved boat in those long-gone days when Pwllheli was not yet blessed with a marina, and set out to race into the night.

Gerry’s relationship with Sundancer was rather special, as she was a David Thomas design, but built in Lymington by Peter Webster, a former Yorkshire baker who liked boats so much he upped sticks and moved south to build them beside the Solent. Webster liked this particular design best of all, so although he built many other boat types, he kept the Elizabethan 30 Liz of Lymington to be his pet boat until his death, when it emerged in his will that he’d left the boat to David Thomas, who in turn kept her until a very advanced age as his own boat.

So there’s something about the Elizabethan 30 which is rather special, and there still is though it was 1969 when she first appeared. With a new wave of Half Tonners coming along through the 1970s, Gerry Haggas quietly gave them a hard time. Quite rightly, his older boat rated a little lower, so in your hot new Half Tonner as night came on, you had to be fairly confident that you’d put Sundancer well astern in the myriad of navigation lights. But as sure as God made little apples, as first light came up, there he’d be, right beside you. Only the classic Yorkshire response would do in such circumstances.

Pwllheli
Pwllheli as it is today. Gerry Haggas played a key role in its growing popularity as a sailing centre, as he was Commodore of Pwllheli SC in 1962-64 just four years after the club was founded

But while Gerry himself was a quiet man, he had no doubt at all of the proper place of his beloved sailing area in the great scheme of things. I recall one wet evening coming ashore in Abersoch (where of course it rains only once a year) during a well-attended ISORA Week, and there sheltering in the lee of South Caernarvon SC was sailmaker Bruce Banks, a former Olympic sailor and multi-champion.

It turned out he was there because he’d made a new suit of sails for Sundancer, and Gerry (and maybe Peter Webster too) had quietly made it clear that he should travel north from the Solent and spend a day or two at ISORA Week in Tremadoc Bay making sure the guys in Sundancer were doing it right. He enjoyed it so much the “day or two” became the whole week. That was the quiet way with Gerry Haggas. He’d a great 96 years voyage through life. Our thoughts are with his family and especially his son Bill.

WMN

Published in ISORA

Things are on the move again. There’s a buzz in the air. W M Nixon anticipates the sailing possibilities for 2016 in a fixtures list so diverse that he reckons that anyone who thinks they know everything that’s going on clearly doesn’t.

If you want anything done, then ask a busy man to do it. And the busier people are ashore, the keener they are to get afloat when they can. There was nothing more sluggish than the sailing and boating scene during the recession years. There was less zest for going sailing when you’d all the time in the world to do it because there was nothing to do ashore. And anyway, as a vehicle sport, sailing was a very identifiable expense which could be reduced or even discarded as the recession rumbled on.

Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. Anyone with businesses to run knew they’d to keep a very close eye on things all the time if they were to survive at all. Thus we became experts at the short sailing break. The four day regatta became all the rage, and even if the good times roll again as never before, it seems likely the four day regatta is going to stay popular.

It’s indicative of amazingly changed times. Today, it’s beyond imagination to realise that at the height of Scotland’s industrial pomp around Glasgow for eighty years into the 1960s, there used to be a Clyde Fortnight. Two whole weeks of sailing on the trot. Except for Sundays of course, when the church services became yachting events. But even with that spiritual input, it was conspicuous consumption gone mad to be able to show you’d the resources and free time to go off yacht racing for a clear fortnight, knowing your employees – or rather, your inherited company’s employees – would keep those profits and dividends rolling in while you swanned about on the bonnie waters of the Firth.

It took special stamina, too. But times and tastes have changed in any case. There are so many other sports, entertainments and interests vying for our attention these days that sailing has to keep re-inventing itself to make its mark. Yet beneath it all there’s still that elementally simple appeal so eloquently expressed by the folksy Floridian Clark Mills, who in 1947 created the Optimist dinghy:

“A boat, by God, it’s just a gleamin’ beautiful creation. And when you pull the sail up on a boat, you’ve got a little bit of really somethin’ God-given. Man, it goes bleetin’ off like a bird’s wing, you know, and there’s nothin’ else like it”.

It’s still as simple as that. So apart from the usual frostbite races and leagues, it’s more than appropriate that the first major sailing event in Ireland in 2016 is the legendary Optimist Training Week at Baltimore during the half term break in February. Yes folks, February. For sure, we know that in the old Irish calendar, February 1st is St Brigid’s Day, and officially the first day of Spring. But for many sailors, St Patrick’s Day on March 17th is about as early as we want to get. And for most of us, Easter is quite soon enough, thank you.

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A harvest of Optys – Optimists racing at the Cork Dinghyfest 2015 in conditions rather different from those they’ll be expecting at Baltimore in February. Photo: Robert Bateman

Nevertheless we salute the keen Opty kids who in February drag their families along with them down to Baltimore – even unto the family dog – in a caravanserai which tells us much about Irish sailing. But what we also know is that Irish sailing is universal, and from times past we’re well aware that our new season is reckoned to start with the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race on December 26th in the dying days of the old year. So the up-coming dash to Hobart is when our new year begins, and back in December 2012 when Gordon Maguire won it overall - his second overall win in this great Australian annual classic - he was undisputed Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for January 2013.

As we’re on the cruiser-racer theme, we’ll stay with it for now through to the August fixtures, and anyone totally into dinghies and nothing else is invited to scroll down a dozen paragraphs to where we emerge from the world of truck-racing for a consideration of the Olympics, the inshore racing classes, and the dinghies.

But for now staying with cruiser-racers, in recent months Gordon Maguire has been making the Mediterranean scene with success aboard the Mark Mills-designed Max 72 Caol Ila (ex-Alegre), but as the Australian season currently swings back into top gear, he’s in the Matt Allen camp aboard the Carkeek 60 Ichi Ban. However, another Irish line of interest continues with Wicklow-based designer Mark Mills, whose newest 45ft footer Concubine – fresh built in Dubai – is going to an Adelaide owner who will have her at optimum trim for her first big outing in the Hobart race.

163Flying machine. The new Mark Mills-designed 45ft Concubine arrives in Australia on November 22nd

Meanwhile, notwithstanding the Optimists gearing up for their February Sailfest in Baltimore, things at home really start on Friday February 4th when the Irish sailing focus closes in on the august yet friendly premises of the Royal College of Surgeons on Stephens Green in the heart of Dublin for the annual ISA/Afloat.ie National Sailing Awards. Sailors of the Month, Sailor of the Year, Mitsubishi Motors Club of the Year and many other well-earned awards will be swept through in a festival of mutual congratulation and camaraderie which perfectly captures the spirit of a sport which has a longer history in Ireland than anywhere else.

164Can they do it again? The Royal Cork Yacht Club – with Marine Minister Simon Coveney – at the ISA/Afloat.ie Sailing Awards 2014 ceremony in the RCSI in Dublin on Friday 6th March 2015, when they swept the board and took the Mitsubishi Motors “Club of the Year” award for good measure. The 2015 awards will be presented at the same venue on Friday, February 4th 2016.

University sailing also comes top of the bill in the Springtime, with the Irish championship seeing titleholders UCD defend a position which also saw them representing Ireland at the Student Yachting Worlds in France in October, when they placed third overall. It sounds reasonable enough, but Ireland has won the Worlds a couple of times in the recent past, so there’s work to be done here.

Another area where work is being done is in the growing interest for Under 25 Squads in doing great things with revitalised J/24s. Cillian Dickson of Howth led his Under 25 group to success both in J/24 and open racing in 2015 with the J/24 Kilcullen, and the word is that 2016 will see at least three similar teams making the scene at national and local events.

But for boats with a lid, the top item on the agenda has to be the fact that this is a biennial Commodores’ Cup year, and we’re the defenders. In 2014, thanks to the single-minded determination of Anthony O’Leary, a competitive three boat team was somehow assembled from some very disparate parts, and the title - won in 2010 but undefended in 2012 in the depths of the recession - was re-taken in very positive style after a week of ferocious racing in late July in the Solent.

165Ireland nicely placed at the start of the Round the Island Race in the Commodore’s Cup 2014, with two British boats neatly sandwiched between Catapult (red hull) and Antix (silver hull). Catapult is now Antix, while the former Antix has been sold to Sweden.

The RORC Brewin Dolphin Commodore’s Cup 2016 will be raced from Cowes from 23rd to 30th July 2016, and far from having to scrape around to assemble a team, the word is that ICRA may be mounting a two team defence/challenge on our behalf, as the RORC event has seen the rating band lowered to 1,000 to make it attractive to boats like J/109s. These super boats are finally taking off in Ireland as a premier class. It has taken some time, but as we’ve been saying for years, the J/109 might have been designed with the Irish context in mind, and they’re going to be a major part of our sailing for many years to come.

166They might have been designed precisely with Irish requirements in mind…….the J/109 class is finally beginning to take off at all main centres.

Through the season, cruiser-racer events swing into action at every level, both at home and nearby abroad, with the RORC Easter Challenge in the Solent (Antix defending for Ireland here), the Silver’s Marine Scottish Series at Tarbert from May 27-30 (Rob McConnell’s A35 Fool’s Gold from Dunmore East is the defender) and then the big home one, the ICRA Nats at Howth from June 10th to 12th, staged just a week after Howth’s at-home major, the Lambay Races on June 4th.

167ICRA racing at its best – Liam Burke’s Corby 25 Tribal from Galway making knots at Kinsale in the ICRA Nats 2015. The ICRA Nats 2016 are at Howth from June 10th to 12th. Photo: ICRA

Meanwhile the re-vitalised ISORA programme (defending champion is Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth from the National YC) will have swung into action in the Irish Sea with a stated commitment to impinge adversely as little as possible – if at all – on long-established events, but for serious old salts the real story in June will be the countdown to the Volvo Round Ireland Race from Wicklow on Saturday June 18th.

Volvo Cars Ireland are in for the long haul on this one. So their first outing with the classic biennial circuit will be run fairly conservatively in the knowledge that legislation is going through the Dail to re-organise the administration of Wicklow Harbour (among other ports). Thus it’s on the cards that in the future, Wicklow Sailing Club and their supportive new sponsor will find they have a harbour much-improved to host visiting boats. But for 2016, the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire will be providing support berths for larger craft, as too will Greystones Marina in between.

168
International participation in the biennial Round Ireland Race – Piet Vroon’s famous Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens making away from the Wicklow starting line on a perect summer’s day. In 2016, Volvo Cars Ireland will be starting a longterm sponsorship of the race.

But even with the current facilities, it’s going to be quite a happening with serious multi-hulls involved for the first time, and Grand Prix racers of the calibre of George David’s Rambler 88 stepping up to the plate, while in the body of the fleet the Shanahan’s Ruth has unfinished business – in 2014 they missed the win by seven minutes to Richard Harris’s Tanit from Scotland.

Until this late-June stage of the season, the south coast will have been fairly quiet in terms of events with an international flavour, but all that changes between 10th and 15th July when the Royal Cork’s Volvo Cork Week swings into action with the added interest (to put it mildly) of the IRC European Championship. This completely new event – a joint venture between the RORC and the RCYC – is still at the developmental stage, but with some far-thinking organisers behind it such as Anthony O’Leary of Royal Cork and Michael Boyd of RORC, it has all the makings of something very special indeed, and will blend in well with July’s expanding European programme as teams work on their performance with the Commodores’ Cup at the end of July providing the Grand Finale.

But of course not everyone seeks the international limelight. There are plenty of local events to keep cruiser-racers busy, and the WIORA Championship 2016 will be from June 29th to July 02nd, hosted by the very venerable Royal Western of Ireland Yacht at Kilrush, which is itself a place re-born since the marina and harbour were taken over by leading harbour engineers L & M Keating.

Inevitably with the August Bank Holiday Monday being precisely on August 1st, traditional events in 2016 will find themselves being compressed into that first week of August, but if you were really keen it might be just be possible to finish the WIORA at Kilrush and then hare round to Schull for Calves Week from Tuesday August 2nd to Friday August 5th, but there are probably too many temptations on the way as you progress along Ireland’s top cruising coast.

However, if you’re not into total relax mode by the time August arrives, then there’s the Olympics in Rio to gather you up in its crazy five ring circus with the sailing events in a continuous tapestry from 5th August 21st August. The Irish challenge for the 2016 Olympiad is still in something of a state of flux as three places have been secured with other possibilities, but the whole thing is total melting-pot stuff, so it’s too early yet to make predictions.

But you don’t have to look to Rio for stellar performance in 2016 as we’ve top level dinghy racing coming to Ireland with the Laser Radial Youth World Championship being hosted in a joint venture by Dun Laoghaire Harbour and the Royal St George YC from Saturday July 23rd to Saturday July 30th, yet another event which has relevance in a different context as the administration of Dun Laoghaire Harbour could well be in a new context in the near future.

Any overview of the dinghy and inshore keelboat scene soon reminds you of the exasperation some observers feel at a global sport which boasts something like 143 recognised World Championships in its annual international programme. And that’s only counting World Championships. Add in Europeans, and numbers increase exponentially, but we have a Europeans in Ireland in 2016 with the Mirrors gathering from 7th to 12th August for racing with one of the most interesting little boats afloat at the RCYC in Crosshaven.

169Yet another new boat design. But the new Phil Morrison-designed National 18 has been making a very good impression in Cork Harbour. Photo: Robert Bateman

For their owners, all boats are interesting - that’s the way it is with boats. Indeed, for many participants, it’s not so much the sport as the vehicles themselves which are the raison d’etre of the whole business. And thus we find that in Ireland as elsewhere, traditional, classic and vintage boats are moving ever higher up the agenda with each season’s programme-making.

It could be argued that there’s nowhere better in the world to find such intriguing and individual boats playing an accepted and natural role in the sailing scene than in the Greater Dublin region. 2016 may also be witnessing the centenary of the Easter Rising and the Irish Revolution. But despite the turmoil of a hundred years ago, we’re basically a very settled and civilised society, and when we find a boat type we like, we tend to stay with her. And equally as a reasonable society we will happily accept the restrictions of one design racing in order to provide affordable sport.

Thus around Dublin we can find the Water Wags whose class organisation dates back to 1886, even if the boats themselves are the new-fangled version from around 1902 or thereabouts. Equally part of the scene are the Howth 17s, undiluted since 1898. And even boats which we think of as new – such as the International Dragons – are now vintage and some of their best racing in 2016 will be in Glandore where the presiding genius is Don Street and Gypsy, numbering 167 years between them, though it’s rude to ask which way the division falls.

1610
Back to her birthplace. Ian Malcolm’s Howth 17 Aura at Carrickfergus, where she was built by John Hilditch in 1898. Several vintage Hilditch-built boats plan to join the 150th Anniversary celebrations of Carrickfergus Sailing Club and the Royal Ulster yacht Club on Belfast Lough next June. Photo: Damian Cronin

Part of the traditional and classic boat scene in Dublin is the annual Leinster Trophy Race of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association at the June Bank Holiday, and newly-elected DBOGA President denis Aylmer with his Cornish Crabber Mona is defending champion. But this year the classic focus shifts to Belfast Lough at the end of June, as both Carrickfergus Sailing Club and Royal Ulster Yacht Club are celebrating their 150th Anniveraries.

They’ll have many separate events, but as Carrickfergus was also the location of the famous Hilditch boat-building yard where many famous wooden one designs were built between 1892 and 1914, there’ll be a Hilditch Regatta at Carrickfergus morphing into a RUYC Classic Yacht Festival across Belfast Lough at Bangor between Wednesday June 22nd and Monday June 27th, with vintage fleets eligible including Strangford Lough Rivers, the Glens, Howth 17s, Belfast Lough Waverleys, Ballyholme Bays and indeed any classics willing to travel such as Water Wags and vintage Dragons.

1611
Senior Hilditch boat. The Mylne-designed Belfast Lough Island Class yawl Trasnagh, seen here under her new Bermudan rig in 1933, is expected to join the 150th Anniversary celebrations in Belfast Lough in the summer of 2016. Photo courtesy RNIYC

1612As she was, so she is again. Tern – seen here in 1898 – has been so faithfully restored in 2015 that she even has replicated the inverted 2 for her sail number 7. They couldn’t find a 7 in the sailmakers loft when the boats were being commissioned in a hurry in May 1897. Photo courtesy RUYC

There may even be an appearance by two of the Hilditch daddies of them all, the Fife-designed Belfast Lough Class I 25ft LWL OD Tern of 1897 vintage which has re-emerged in the Mediterranean so effectively restored that she won her class at Les Voiles de St Tropez in September 2015, and the Mylne-designed 39ft LOA Island Class yawl Trasnagh, built in 1913 to join her sisters at Cultra anchorage to make up a fleet of the worlds first true cruiser-racer one designs.

At the other end of the size scale, one of the best new events of 2015 was the Dinghyfest at Royal Cork in August, which was such a success straight out of the box that they’re going to run it again in 2016 on much the same format, and the word is that classes are already queuing to take part in something which could well be a very welcome distraction from Olympic angst.

MAIN 2016 SAILING EVENTS OF IRISH INTEREST 

February 4th ISA/Afloat.ie Annual Awards RCSI, Dublin

May 27th to 30th Silver’s Scottish Series Tarbert, Loch Fyne

June 10th to 12th ICRA Nats Howth

June 18th Volvo Round Ireland Race Wicklow

June 22nd to 27th Belfast Lough Classics Carrickfergus & Bangor

July 10th to 15th Volvo Cork Week & IRC Europeans Royal Cork YC

July 23rd to 30th Laser Youth Radial Worlds RStGYC

July 23rd to 30th Brewin Dolphin Commodore’s Cup Cowes

August 5th to 21st Sailing Olympics 2016 Rio de Janeiro

August 7th to 12th Mirror Europeans Royal Cork YC

October 1st to 2nd All-Ireland Helmsman’s Championship

October Student Yachting World Cup France

October 22nd Rolex Middle Sea Race Malta

2016 ISA FIXTURE LIST

StartEndNameBoat ClassVenue
06/02/16 07/02/16 IUSA Westerns Fireflies Killaloe SC
25/02/16 28/02/16 IUSA Varsities Fireflies Kenmare
26/03/16 27/03/16 Munster Championships Laser Baltimore Sailing Club
10/04/16 10/04/16 Traveller 1 Topper East Down YC
23/04/16 24/04/16 Mirror Westerns Mirror Sligo YC
23/04/16 24/04/16 Ulster Championships Laser Coounty Antrim Yacht Club
23/04/16 24/04/16 RS400 Easterns RS Royal St George YC
23/04/16 24/04/16 RS200 Easterns RS Royal St George YC
24/04/16 24/04/16 Traveller 2 Topper Lough Derg YC
08/05/16 08/05/16 Traveller 3 Topper Wexford Harbour B&TC
14/05/16 16/05/16 Leinster Optimist Championships Optimist Royal St George YC
14/05/16 15/05/16 Optimist Leinsters Optimist Royal St George YC
21/05/16 22/05/16 Ulster Championships Topper Donaghadee SC
21/05/16 22/05/16 GP14 OT & Purcell GP14 Swords Sailing & BC
21/05/16 22/05/16 J/24 Northerrns J/24 Sligo YC
21/05/16 22/05/16 RS400 Northerns RS Cushendall Sailing & Boating Club
27/05/16 29/05/16 Sportsboat Cup 2016 Various Howth YC
27/05/16 29/05/16 Dragon East Coast Championship Dragon Royal Irish YC
28/05/16 29/05/16 Squib Northern Championship Squib Killyleagh SC
04/06/16 04/06/16 Lambay Races 2016 All Classes Howth YC
10/06/16 12/06/16 ICRA National Championships 2016 Cruisers Howth YC
10/06/16 12/06/16 Wayfarer National Championship Wayfarer Ramor Watersports Club
11/06/16 12/06/16 Optimist Connaughts Optimist Foynes YC
18/06/16   Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race Cruisers Wicklow SC
18/06/16 18/06/16 Royal Alfred Bloomsday Regatta All Classes National YC
18/06/16 19/06/16 Leinster Championships Topper Skerries SC
25/06/16 26/06/16 GP14 Ulsters GP14 East Down YC
25/06/16 26/06/16 RS400 Westerns RS Sligo YC
25/06/16 26/06/16 RS200 Westerns RS Sligo YC
01/07/16 01/07/16 Optimist VP Team Racing Cup Optimist Malahide YC
01/07/16 03/07/16 White Sails and Non Spinnaker Team Challenge Cruisers Royal St George YC
01/07/16 03/07/16 Dingy West 2016 - Sailing the Wild Atlantic All Dinghies Galway Bay Sailing Club
02/07/16 03/07/16 Connaught Championships Laser Lough Derg YC
02/07/16 03/07/16 Optimist Ulsters Optimist Malahide YC
02/07/16 03/07/16 J/24 Southerns J/24 Royal Cork YC
02/07/16 03/07/16 Fireball Leinsters Fireball Wexford Harbour B&TC
02/07/16 04/07/16 Irish Nationals Topper Royal Cork YC
10/07/16 15/07/16 Volvo Cork Week & IRC European Championships Various Royal Cork YC
15/07/16 17/07/16 Ruffian 23 National Championship Ruffian 23 Dun Laoghaire MYC
16/07/16 17/07/16 Optimist Crosbie Cup Optimist Lough Ree YC
16/07/16 17/07/16 Leinster Championships Laser National YC
17/07/16 17/07/16 Traveller 4 Topper Carrickfergus SC
22/07/16 24/07/16 Mirror National Championships Mirror Sutton Dinghy Club
23/07/16 30/07/16 Laser Radial World Championships (Men's & Youth's) Laser Royal St George YC
23/07/16 24/07/16 GP14 Leinsters GP14 Sutton Dinghy Club
23/07/16 24/07/16 RS400 Southerns RS Lough Ree YC
23/07/16 24/07/16 RS200 Southerns RS Lough Ree YC
23/07/16 29/07/16 World Championships Topper Ballyholme YC
29/06/16 02/07/16 WIORA 2016 Cruisers Royal Western YC
30/07/16 01/08/16 Arklow Maritime Festival All Classes Arklow SC
06/08/16 07/08/16 J/24 Westerns J/24 Lough Ree YC
07/08/16 07/08/16 Sutton Dinghy Regatta All Classes Sutton Dinghy Club
07/08/16 12/08/16 Mirror Europeans 2016 Mirror Royal Cork YC
09/08/16 11/08/16 420 Nationals 420 Howth YC
12/08/16 13/08/16 Sailability President's Cup Various Kinsale YC
12/08/16 14/08/16 Fireball Nationals Fireball Howth YC
15/08/16 19/08/16 Optimist Irish Nationals Optimist Lough Derg YC
19/08/16 21/08/16 Squib Irish National Championship Squib Kinsale YC
20/08/16 23/08/16 National Championships Laser Galway Bay Sailing Club
26/08/16 28/08/16 RS400 Irish Nationals RS Schull Harbour SC
26/08/16 28/08/16 RS400 Irish Nationals RS Schull Harbour SC
27/08/16 29/08/16 GP14 Irish & Masters GP14 Skerries SC
27/08/16 28/08/16 Munster Championships Topper Kinsale YC
27/08/16 28/08/16 Mirror Northerns Mirror Royal North Of Ireland YC
27/08/16 28/08/16 Topper Munster Championship Topper Kinsale YC
28/08/16 28/08/16 Taste of Greystones Cruiser Regatta Cruisers Greystones SC
31/08/16 04/09/16 Dragon Irish Championship Dragon Kinsale YC
02/09/16 04/09/16 J/24 Nationals J/24 Royal St George YC
03/09/16 04/09/16 Wayfarer Inland Championship Wayfarer Callaun SC
10/09/16 11/09/16 Optimist Munsters Optimist Royal Cork YC
10/09/16 11/09/16 Fireball Munsters Fireball Killaloe SC
11/09/16 11/09/16 Traveller 5 Topper Killyleagh SC
17/09/16 18/09/16 All Ireland Inter-Schools Championship All Classes Sutton Dinghy Club
24/09/16 25/09/16 GP14 Autumn & Youth GP14 Sligo YC
24/09/16 25/09/16 ISA All Ireland Youth Championships TBC TBC
01/10/16 02/10/16 ISA All Ireland Senior Championships J80 TBC
15/10/16 16/10/16 Squib Inland Championship/Freshwater Regatta Squib Lough Derg YC
Published in W M Nixon

Offshore sailing crews from up to ten yacht clubs across Wales and Ireland gathered at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire last weekend to hear details of the 2016 ISORA offshore sailing calendar that does not include June's 700–mile Round Ireland race as part of its points series.

While stressing ISORA's total support for the biennial Wicklow race (that has just signed Volvo as a new sponsor) chairman Peter Ryan said the decision was based solely on the fact that ISORA races are weighted based on difficulty and distance. 'The last time the Round Ireland was included in the series it was weighted 1.5. The effect of this was that if a boat did particularly well in the Round Ireland, they practically also had the ISORA series sewn up', Ryan said. 'We are always trying the encourage new boat to go offshore, compete and do well. The boat likely to do well in the Round Ireland would be one of our experienced boats and, it was felt, that this would discourage new boats racing in ISORA' he added.

The ISORA fleet typically gains on the year of the Round Ireland race as new boats attempt to attain the necessary offshore experience and take part in ISORA races before the Round Ireland.

ISORA will sail into Wicklow Harbour on Saturday, 23rd April for the finish of its first race of the 2016 season, a 50–mile coastal day race.

Read a review of the 2015 ISORA series and download the 2016 ISORA calendar of events here

Published in ISORA
Page 11 of 26

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