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The Midnight Race from Liverpool to Douglas, Isle of Man, was being run for the 99th time on Friday 8th June. This is an evening race with the start at 19.30 provided by Commodore of Liverpool Yacht Club, Paul Pratt. The race was also Race 7 of the ISORA Offshore Series writes Chris Power Smith, skipper of Aurelia, the winner of the Class Zero race.

The race was the first part of a weekend qualifying series for boats taking part in the Round Ireland Race. The qualifying consisted of the delivery to Liverpool, the “Midnight Race” on the Friday evening and the “Mid Sea Race” to take place on the Sunday.

22 boats came to the start line on the Mersey close to Albert Dock. Due to the very light winds the course selected was essentially dome the river to the seas and direct to Douglas. All boats taking part were fitted with YB trackers.

ISORA Racing liverpoolLight winds for the Midnight Race Photo: Liverpool YC

At the start the wind was from SSE 2 to 3 knots and the tide had just started to ebb. All boats hoisted kites and made a spectacular sight on the river Mersey. The right side of the channel was preferred for the stronger tide but there seemed to be more wind on the left. As it turned out, there was no obvious advantage. In just over an hour the boats made nearly 4 miles with the wind between 2 to 5 knots to pass New Brighton to port. Crews were kept busy with very frequent gibes to stay within the narrow channel as all channel marks were marks of the course.

It was a very challenging and tactical race down the river with close-quarter racing and tight quarters boat on boat manoeuvres. Requests for room to gybe were constant with a fear of running out of depth or even worse hitting the revetment wall along the channel.

On exiting the channel the boats were still tightly bunched with “Jackknife” pulling out in mid-channel in front by a few hundred meters from “Mojito” on the starboard side and “Jedi” and “Wakey Wakey” on the port side. “Ruth”, “Platinum Blonde” and “Aurelia” were sailing closely in the middle with “YoYo” out wide on the starboard side.

"Round Ireland Race hopeful, Glyn Sheffield, in his Farr 40, “Espresso Martini Too” breaking out in front of “Jackknife”

The next hour saw the boats make about 5 miles in the strengthening tide with Round Ireland Race hopeful, Glyn Sheffield, in his Farr 40, “Espresso Martini Too” breaking out in front of “Jackknife”. “Platinum Blonde” was now in third, closely followed by “Aurelia” and “Ruth”. “Mojito” and “Wakey Wakey” were next having opened up a lead on “Jedi”, “Max Too”, “North Star” and “YoYo”.

“Espresso Martini” was the first boat to pass the Q2 Mark to exit the Queen’s Channel at approximately 22.15, followed closely by “Jackknife”, a few hundred meters adrift. Next to exit the channel was “Aurelia”, with “Platinum Blonde”, “Wakey Wakey” and “Ruth” close behind, followed by “Mojito”, “Jedi”, “North Star” and “YoYo”. Class 2 boats, “Windjammer” and “Mojo” were not far behind as they exited the channel around 22.30.

The wind was now a steady 10 knots and still from the SSE. By midnight “Jackknife” had opened up a lead on the water with little change in places in the pursuing front group of boats as they passed the exclusion zones of the Conwy Oil Field.

Midnight race isoraAsymmetric spinnakers are kept filling in the light winds Photo: Franscois Pean/Aurelia

By 03.00 the wind had dropped to 7 knots and shifted ESE. “Aurelia” had edged out in front on the water. “Ruth” was the leading J109 hotly pursued by “Wakey Wakey” and the First 35, “Platinum Blonde”, splitting her from sistership J109 “Mojito”.

By 06.00 “Jackknife” was leading the charge for line honours just ahead of “Aurelia”. The J109s were still neck and neck but “Platinum Blonde” was stubbornly fighting to split them up. As the boats approached the finish “Ruth” gybed South of the rhumb line and lost ground to the other J109s and “Platinum Blonde”.

“Jackknife” was first over the line to take line honours after 14 hours 35 minutes, followed by “Aurelia”, “Mojito”, “Wakey Wakey” and “YoYo”. “Mojito” had done enough to win Overall and Class One with “Wakey Wakey”, only 35 seconds behind after over 15 hours racing, taking 2nd Overall. “Platinum Blonde”, 5 minutes further adrift took 3rd Overall. “Aurelia” won the Class Zero race with “Jackknife” second. “Windjammer” won the Class Two race with a very credible 5th overall, followed by “More Mischief” second in Class 2.

Full results can be found here

YB Tracking of the race can be viewed on the YB app or here

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A great ISORA fleet has massed in Liverpool Marina, just upriver from the Lyver Building and the Albert Dock for tonight's Midnight Races. 

The 30 strong fleet (downloadable below) is now set up for this evening’s start (at 19.30 hrs) of the classic Liverpool YC Midnight Race to Douglas Ise of Man. This is the seventh race in the ISORA 2018 series.

After finishing the race in Douglas, the crews will then prepare for a return race on Sunday morning from Douglas to a gate finish in the middle of the Irish Sea (this is race eight in the series).

Rockabill Howth Yacht 3920Rockabill VI (Paul O'Higgins) will race in tonight's Midnight Race Seven of the ISORA series Photo: Afloat.ie

Both races can be seen live on the ISORA YB Trackers here. Sailing Instructions are downloadable below.

The season is hotting up in the 53 boat ISORA fleet following the two coastal races last weekend. 

The next two races are this weekend as follows:

Race 7 - Liverpool to Douglas IOM - Midnight Race Friday Night 8th June

The race starts at 19.30 BST Friday 8th June

Course to be decided later today – either Course 1 or Course 2.

The finish line in Douglas is from a light at the pier end to the extremity of the Bay Head on the other side of the bay.

Race 8 - Douglas IOM to Finish Gate (Mid Irish Sea) Sunday 10th June

This is the “Mid Sea Race” and will start at 08.45 BST Sunday 10th June from a line at Douglas head lighthouse and end at a gate in the middle of the Irish Sea. This is made possible with the use of a virtual finish line using the ISORA YB Trackers.

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A J109 is back at the top of the ISORA scoreboard after a 60–mile offshore race on Saturday from Dun Laoghaire to Pwllheli. It brings to four the total of races so far this season and puts Welsh yacht Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Victoria Cox), the 2017 champion, into the lead, some three points ahead of Chris Power–Smith's Aurelia from the Royal St. George Yacht Club.

Saturday's 22-boat cross channel race was won by Class 2 entry Desert Star, a Jeanneau Sunfast 37 entry from the Royal St George Yacht Club skippered by Rónán O Siochru. 

Second was Mojito of Pwllheli Sailing Club with Royal Irish Yacht Club's Rockabill VI I(Paul O'Higgins) third.

Race four results here. Overall results here.

The 22-boat fleet gathered at the start line in time for the start at 0800hrs and race officers Larry Power and Barry McNeaney set the fleet off, on time, into the last of the north going tide. The course set by the Sailing Committee was a direct line to the finish in Pwllheli, which always provides complex tactical decisions for the navigators and tacticians.

Jackknife led the fleet from the start with Rockabill VI chasing hard on her heel. Aurelia took a line to the south of the rhumb line whilst Ruth and Mojito were the most northerly boats of the fleet - enjoying a match race across the Irish Sea.

The northerly wind was too shy for spinnakers but did allow boats to fly their code zero sails, although many changed back to jibs as the wind built and the south going tide kicked in after 1000hrs.

Conditions were set for a fast crossing, but would the fleet get through Bardsey Sound before the tide turned?

Jackknife made it through the sound with the last of the south going tide followed by Rockabill VI and then Aurelia but their advantage was short-lived due to a patch of no wind! Next through, almost together, were YoYo and Sgrech and then Samatom who had to fight against the first of the north going tide but sailing into more wind. Next, and together, were Ruth and Mojito with Mojito attempting the inside Carreg Ddu passage to avoid the foul tide but risking the wind shadow from the land.

The rest of the fleet had to contend with the increasing foul tide in the sound but to sail into more wind in Aberdaron Bay. Many of the crews commented on the warmth of the wind coming across the land and the flat sea sailing conditions.

The next tactical call was inside or outside Tudwal Islands; the leading boats opted to fight the stronger current by staying south and the next pack opted for less tide but accepting the possibility of less wind inside the Abersoch bay.

On the beat from Tudwal’s Islands to Pwllheli the wind over land became very shifty and big gains, and losses, were made on each wind shift and the clever tacticians also spotted the increasing wind from the northeast which continued to build as the boats finished.

The wind increased from 10 knots to 20 knots but sailing conditions were superb with the flat sheltered waters.

The competitors then finished in rapid succession which kept the ISORA finishers, Robin and Brian on their toes! They were based in the control tower at the Welsh National Sailing Academy and Event Centre which provided an excellent view of the boats as they crossed the finishing line.

DesertStarISORA Race winner Desert Star

First to finish was Jackknife followed by Rockabill VI and then Aurelia.

The Race Overall Winner, and Class 2 winner, was Desert Star who is now perfectly set up for their Round Ireland Challenge.

ISORA 2017 Champions, Mojito, sailed a great race to take second place and 1st in Class 1. Rockabill VI showed her form and great pace being 3rd Overall and 1st in Class 0.

After completing the race, the fleet made its way to the Academy’s pontoons and a warm welcome awaited the crews in the Club room. The race officers greeted all boats across the finish line and stood down after the last competitors, Lady Rowena and Adante, arrived just before midnight. They had the worst of the tide in Bardsey Sound but were delighted to have completed the course and for an opportunity to share their experiences in the bar with refreshments!

The next two races are next weekend 2nd June; one in Ireland and one in Wales.

Race 5 – is the second race in the Viking Marine Coastal Series and part of the Howth YC Wave Regatta and the Lambay Race. 

Race 6 – is the second race in the Global Display Coastal Series in Pwllheli and the course will be announced shortly.

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There will be many in the 23–boat offshore race fleet that would prefer to forget the long drawn out finish of ISORA's Race three on Saturday.

The 14-5 hour Dun Laoghaire to Dun Laoghaire race (full report here) came to a slow close at the harbour mouth with leaders Sgrech II and Rockabill II carrying the breeze all the way to the line as captured below by Sam Hall in this unique aerial perspective.

The race was won by Chris Power Smth's Aurelia from the Royal St. George Yacht Club, read his account here.

Check out the vid below.

The next ISORA race from Dun Laoghaire is on May 26th with a change of finish from Holyhead to Pwllheli in North Wales.

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The Dun Laoghaire to Dun Laoghaire race three in the ISORA Offshore Series 2018 featured 'Champagne Sailing' for “Aurelia” writes ISORA's Peter Ryan. 

The first offshore race of the ISORA Offshore Championship 2018 took place on the 12th May with a starting time of 08.00. 23 boats from the entry list of 27 came to the start line in Dun Laoghaire.

The original starting port for this race was Holyhead. However, due to the disastrous consequences of the recent storm where their marina was destroyed, it was reluctantly agreed that the start should be changed. Being the first offshore, and typically only 50 miles, there were no other options but to start and finish in Dun Laoghaire.

Unfortunately, the position in Holyhead has also affected the next race on the 26th that was scheduled to be from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead. The finishing port for this race was to have facilitated those boats heading over for the Race 6, Midnight race in Liverpool. It was intended that some boats would remain in Holyhead after the next race and deliver from there to Liverpool.

ISORA light air startA light air start to ISORA Race three

The weather forecast for Race 3 was predicting no wind forecast until 11.00 and then south-easterly winds increasing to 10-15 knots after that. The winds were then forecast to drop later that evening. This is exactly what the weather did.

With the forecast in mind the course for the race was agreed as follows: Start – Rockabill (S) – East Kisk (S) – Muglins (P) – Finish at the Pier Heads – approximately 50 miles.

The start at 08.00 was provided by Grainne Ryan and Jo Thompson at DBSC’s Pier Mark. The fickle breeze at the start area was not kind to all boats and while some boats moved north off the line towards Rockabill, others were left behind.

Yo yo 0870The Sunfast 3600 Yo Yo was one of the lead boats off the line Photo: Afloat.ie

“Sgrech J111” Stephen Tudor, “Jackknife” Andrew Hall, “Indian” Colm Buckley and “YoYo” Brendan Coughlan, were the lead boats to break from the line. However at Howth Head, “Indian” and “YoYo” stalled and “Aurelia” Chris Power Smith and Mojito” Peter Dunlop, joined the other two boats heading toward Rockabill. At this stage the wind was filling in from the south east at 10knots and the fleet were under spinnaker. “Aurelia” took the unique passage between Lambay and the coast while the remainder of the fleet stayed offshore of Lambay. This appeared to have paid royally as they approached Rockabill behind “Jackknife” and “Sgrech J111”.

Rockabill lighthousePassing Rockabill lighthouse in calm conditions

The leg to east Kish was a beat in south easterly 12-15 knots. The main tussle at the front of the fleet was between the two equally rated boats “Aurelia” and “Sgrech J111” with “Aurelia” just tacking in front of “Sgrech J111” at East Kish. After that, it was a soldier’s race with a reach to the finish.

“Jackknife” took line honours with “Aurelia” and then “Sgrech J111”. At this stage the wind was dropping and slowing the remainder of the wide spread fleet.

“Aurelia” just did enough to take IRC Overall and Class 0. Read skipper Chris Power Smith's own report here) with “Sgrech J111) taking 2nd Overall and 2nd Class 0. “Jackknife” took 3rd place Overall and 3rd Class 0. “Mojito” took Class 1 while “Windjammer” Lindsay Casey, took Class 2. “First of September” Jerry Whiston, took Silver Class.

ISORA close racingClose racing

The fleet were also racing under ECHO but technical problems prevented the results being issued at the time of this report. These will follow.

The race was very successful for the boats from Pwllheli with the three boats, “Sgrech J111”, “Jackknife” and “Mojito” taking 2nd, 3rd and 4th in IRC Overall. Another factor is that the first seven boats, with the exception of “Rockabill VI”, were J-Boats!

Full results and the YB tracking of the race are on the ISORA website here.

Despite the sometimes frustrating wind conditions, the sun shone all day. After the race many of the visiting boats tied up at the National Yacht Club and the usual “apres sail” commenced.

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The fourth ISORA offshore race of the season will race from Dun Laoghaire to Pwllheli and not Holyhead as originally scheduled on Saturday, 26th May.

Skippers have already received the change of course after extensive discussions with Holyhead Sailing Club who are still dealing with the aftermath of the loss of the marina in Storm Emma.

ISORA Chair Peter Ryan told Afloat.ie: 'After deliberations by the sailing committee, it has been agreed that the least bad option we have is to change the finish to Pwllheli'. 

'Please be assured, this decision was not taken likely' he added.

The devastation in Holyhead has had a significant impact on the ISORA 2018 schedule. The consequence for the committee now is not only to choose the course for each race but to choose a start and finish point too.

As Afloat.ie previously reported, Welsh Government funding will boost the Holyhead Marina clean-up so the hope is the normal racing calendar there can resume quickly.

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In the build up to next month's all–important Round Ireland Race, yesterdays' ISORA race from Dun Laoghaire was an important tune–up. Chris Power–Smith's J122 Aurelia crew showed the depth of their ambition by outwitting some of the ISORA big guns over a tricky course – Start (Dun Laoghaire); Rockabill (S); East Kish (S); Muglins (P); Finish (Dun Laoghaire) – that lasted over 12 hours.

Afloat.ie caught up with Chris after post race celebrations at the National Yacht Club and he gave us this background to his own sailing and how he and his Royal St. George Yacht Club crew came out on top yesterday evening to lead the ISORA Championships overall.

Aurelia is my sixth J Boat. Having started with a J24 and then through, a J92, J92S, two J109s, Jetstream and the very successfully campaigned Rollercoaster in which we won two Dublin Bay Championships and two out of three of the first ISORAs we tried. I am a self–taught sailor who took up sailing at age 34. I was also fooled into thinking it might be easy to win ISORA races. In fact it is a very very competitive fleet, with hard won races, and some of the races can be very grueling. Winkie Nixon didn’t mention me in the recent history of J109s but I had the second one in Ireland after George Sisk had sold his one and bought the J133. I think the fact that I, as a relative novice, was so successful in mine spurred others to buy into the fleet. Rollercoaster had a full new set of Norths and I think this was a big help to the sailmaker in launching their sails onto the bay.

"I needed a new challenge outside of bay racing & offshore fitted the bill"

Deciding I needed a new challenge outside of bay racing, offshore fitted the bill, I decided to buy a bigger boat and moved up to the 40 footer. I have found the J122 to be a very fast, competitive and comfortable boat. I have really enjoyed the offshore racing and my first long race was D2D 3 years ago when we came third. I also took part in the last round Ireland and it was a big personal achievement for me to skipper the boat with a fully corinthian crew.

Aurelia 1572Aurelia is the 2017 Class Zero ISORA champion Photo: Afloat.ie

We won the ISORA series in Class Zero last year and came third overall the previous year.

Yesterday, we got smothered at the start off Dun Laoghaire Harbour and made our way painfully slowly over to the Baily Lighthouse on the north shore of Dublin Bay. The other boats that got clean starts went out of the bay and got more breeze. We were neck and neck with Rockabill VI (Paul O'Higgins) and Jedi (Kenneth Rumball) at the Baily, but managed to break away with our A1 up. We then decided to go inside Lambay to take advantage of the lower current gradient in the ebbing southerly flowing tide and where we expected more breeze, closer to the clouds on the shore. We were the only boat to go inside the Island and it was a hard battle to persuade all on board that this was the way to go, with constant discussion until the point of no return.

"We got smothered at the start and made our way painfully slowly over to the Baily"

When we converged at Rockabill VI, Jacknife, who rounded first and Sgrech second were over two miles ahead. We dropped the A1 and hoisted the J1 for the long one sided beat 22 miles to East Kish. We had to put in a couple of tacks to get around the Easter tip of Lambay. We slowly ground Sgrech down, and as the wind got up to around 12 to 14 knots we peeled to the J2. We tacked and dueled with them all the way down in choppy wind against tide conditions, eventually crossing ahead close to East Kish and tacking ahead of them to make the mark.

This year I decided to rate the boat higher on IRC in anticipation of the Round Ireland Race. We extended the bow sprit from 6.1m to 6.42 and we bought a new larger 155 square metre North Sails kite moving up from the old one of 143 square meters. We chose gold to match the name of the boat Aurelia, which means "golden one”.

"We hoisted the kite as we rounded the mark, with Sgrech close behind"

Prof O’Connell of North Sails Ireland came along for his first ever ISORA yesterday to show us the ropes and check out the cut and fit of the new sail. All the way down the beat, we were really worried that it was going to be too tight back to the finish in the harbour mouth to fly our beautiful gold brand new kite. But the wind continued to veer southerly and the true wind angle opened up to 115 to 120 in about 14 knots. We hoisted the kite as we rounded the mark, with Sgrech close behind. Sgrech, former J109 owner and ISORA multiple champion Stephen Tudor's new J111, rates exactly the same as us 1.083, so this was a one design style race to be first over the line. We stayed high and bore off just before the harbour to make the entrance. Sgrech went lower, anticipating a dying wind. We then came up to pass through the harbour finish with the kite up at 19.04. A real thrill for us and spectacular sight for the pier walkers. Sgrech finished only three minutes behind us after 11 hours of racing. Jacknife got line honours and we worried that she might have pipped us on handicap, but she came third overall to Sgrech second overall.

J122 Aurelia 0800The J122 Aurelia is Chris Power–Smith's sixth J-boat, He's also has campaigned two J24's, a J92 and two J109s Photo: Afloat.ie

We were really delighted with the new North Sails kite and while we also have to carry the rating penalty upwind, we saw a huge performance increase on the last leg yesterday. We had no problem carrying the extra sail area at a tight angle and she accelerated superbly as we bore away.

Aurelia SpinnakerAurelia has a full inventory of North Sails and yesterday the crew were flying a new North Sails A2 asymmetric yesterday which Prof O'Connell trimmed on the leg home from East Kish to Dun Laoghaire Harbour

Combined with the last race’s second place, we are now leading the championship overall.

J122 aurelia 1(Above and below) Aurelia crosses the in–harbour finish line at the 2017 Dun Laoghaire Regatta in front of the Royal St. George Yacht Club. The J122 now leads the 2018 ISORA championships as skipper Chris Power–Smth prepares for next month's big one, the all important Round Ireland Race from Wicklow. Photo: Afloat.ie

Aurelia 1631

Aurelia's winning crew yesterday consisted of: owners: Chris and Patanne Power Smith (RSGYC, RORC); Chris Power Smith: Skipper; Aileen Kelleher, just back from Caribbean 600 on J122 Noisey Oyster; Bernard McGranaghan (just back from Caribbean 600 on J122 Noisey Oyster, he chartered her); Francois Penn Ditto; Ger Walshe; Lynda McCracken; Niall Smythe; John McManus; Michael Keatinge and Prof O’Connell North Sails Representative

Overall ISORA results here

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Frank Whelan's Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera goes into Saturday's first ISORA qualifying race of 60–miles as the overall series leader but the Greystones Sailing Club entry is only narrowly ahead of second placed Royal St. George's Chris & Patanne Power Smith's, J/122 Aurelia. The overall results after two races are here

This weekend's race to Holyhead has been amended due to the loss of the North Wales marina. Instead, a 30–boat fleet will race an offshore course that begins and ends off Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

The first warning signal will be at 0755 off Dun Laoghaire's East Pier.

ISORA's 2017 champion Mojito, the J109, from Pwllheli Sailing Club, skippered by Peter Dunlop & Victoria Cox has already arrived at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire in anticiptation of Saturday's amended race.

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Exposure Lights are sponsors of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) Coastal Night Races for 2018.

Both races take competitors over a 35 mile course through the night. One race is based in Dun Loaghaire while the other is based in Pwllheli, Wales. Both events take place in July 2018 and are part of the Global Communication and Viking Marine Coastal Series. Thirty two competitors from Ireland and Wales lined up for the first joint day race of the series.

Competitors will benefit from a sponsorship package aimed at enhancing the event and includes generous Exposure Lights vouchers for the top three podium winners in both the IRC and ECHO classes.

The races will be tracked using the latest GPS technology with the Yellow Brick tracker system. This allows the race to be followed by supporters on land and sea.

Tom Harrop, Brand Manager at Exposure Lights comments, “We are very pleased to announce our new partnership with ISORA. The Exposure Lights Coastal Night Races are a great opportunity for all the competitors to experience the benefits of our lights within their own race campaigns. Exposure’s compact, ultra-lightweight, powerful LED spotlights, safety lights and head torches are designed for the rigours of endurance offshore sailing, with red LED options to preserve night vision too.”

Peter Ryan ISORA Chairman adds, “ISORA was set up to promote and encourage offshore sailing in the Irish Sea. We are thrilled that through this partnership our competitors will have the opportunity to use the same products and technologies that are used and recommended by Volvo Ocean Race, Vendee and Figaro sailors alike. Exposure’s high precision engineering is bringing new ways to make night sailing and personal safety more effective and affordable for all offshore sailors.”

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Frank Whelan's Eleuthera, the Grand Soleil 44 yacht that broke the dominance of the J109s to win the first ISORA race of the season yesterday, is the former famous Dutch yacht 'Holmatro' with a race winning pedigree. 

The Greystones crew emerged as winners in impressive style over Chris Power Smith's Dun Laoghaire–based J/122 after a three hour Viking Marine sponsored coastal race off Dublin Bay. More details here.

A true winner fifteen years ago, the 2003–Italian built Judel Vrolijk design was a Cowes Week 2003 winner, a Rolex Fastnet Race 2003 class winner, an Antwerp Race winner 2003 and a Gotland Rund Sweden race winner too.

"The Judel Vrolijk design was a Cowes Week 2003 winner, a Rolex Fastnet 2003 class winner, an Antwerp Race winner 2003 and a Gotland Round Sweden race winner too"

Eleuthera's crew is largely made up of Greystones Harbour sailors. Paddy Barnwell runs the boat and crew, comprising young dinghy racers from the ranks of the RS 200 and RS400 fleets. The main core crew are: Frank Whelan (skipper), Barnwell, Gary Hick, Conor Clery, Kevin O'Rourke, Killian Fitzgerald, Andrew Smith, Matt Sherlock, Gavin Laverty and Shane Hughes (North Sails Ireland).

Eleuthera Grand soleil 44 0798Eleuthera's crew is largely made up of Greystones dinghy sailors under skipper Frank Whelan and crew boss Paddy Barnwell. Photo: Afloat.ie

Noted Dublin Bay tactican Marty O'Leary, who was aboard yesterday for the ISORA win, says the boat plans to do all the ISORA coastal races, as well as Cork Week, Calves Week, the ICRA nationals in Galway and the Taste of Greystones Regatta at her home port at the end of the season.

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