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36 boats have entered the first ISORA offshore race to take place next Saturday. The offshore race will be approximately 60–miles, depending on the weather, starting in Holyhead and finishing in Dun Laoghaire. See attached ISORA entry list list below.

The fleet is a great cross section, from classic to high tech and from small to large, demonstrating the range of boats that are interested in racing offshore. The newly adopted “ISORA Progressive ECHO” will ensure a greater spread of prizes for the race with prizes for six classes and trophy for overall as well as the famous “Race Winners Jacket”, says ISORA's Peter Ryan. 

The gathering of such a large numbers of boats and their crew in Holyhead on the Friday evening and again hopefully at the NYC on Saturday evening will generate a great social atmosphere, adds Ryan.

After Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire, the ISORA fleet gather again for a new offshore race to Arklow on May 27th. Read more on that new race here.

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The world of sailing has so many sectors of interest that it’s challenging keeping track of the general picture. But even when you’ve achieved that basic level of comprehension, you then discover that each sector has so many sub-sectors that it all slips back into confusion. Once upon a time, W M Nixon though he’d a handle on the world of offshore racing. Now, he’s not so sure.

It’s all Tom Dolan’s fault. Most of you will know Tom as the farmboy from Meath who is cutting a remarkable swathe through the world of French Minitransat racing. Last week his name was back up in lights yet again after taking third in a fleet of 52 Minitransat boats in the 300-mile Pornichet Selector, which had these mighty atoms pinging up and down along France’s Biscay coast, with our man being overall leader at two stages.

He’s our Meath man now rather than a Meath farmboy, as he turned 30 on April 27th just after the race had finished. But he still has total boyish enthusiasm for the whole business, allied to a dogged yet adult dedication which is at such a level that it puts him on a different planet from most of the rest of us.

The plan for today was a quick look at Tom and what he’s doing as part of a general overview of the gradual regeneration of offshore racing and its various new areas of rapid development. But the problem is that, once you’ve sensed Tom’s enthusiasm and grasped just how utterly off the wall is his way of life, it takes over the whole show. So we’ll allow it to do so after a quick overview of the general scene.

And where better than to start with a quote from another man from Meath? We’ll always cherish the headline from The Meath Chronicle, when news of a certain sailing event in 1996 percolated through to the editorial headquarters of that esteemed journal in Navan:

LOBINSTOWN MAN WINS ROUND IRELAND YACHT RACE. That’s what it said. Real fame at last. Those of us who have a vague idea of Lobinstown’s location up near Nobber would have guessed it to be in Louth or even Monaghan. But not so, it’s clear over the border, into the Royal County and Meath Chronicle territory, and the Lobinstown man was Michael Boyd, who’d just knocked off the overall win in the big one with his J/35 Big Ears.

michael boyd big ears2It’s 1996, and Michael Boyd’s J/35 Big Ears has just won Wicklow’s Round Ireland Race while her skipper (right) has become one of the earliest Afloat “Sailors of the Month”

For that, he was our “Sailor of the Month” in the inaugural year of the contest, when we began to learn that monthly achievements, clearly highlighted at the time, amount to a very useful quick-reference history of Irish sailing years later. For the record, back in 1996 Big Ears was skippered by Michael Boyd with Jamie Boag (then 25) on navigation, tactics and alternate watch leader, Patsy Burke was relief helm and bowman, Brian Mehigan was bowman, ship’s doctor and cook, trimming team were P J Kennedy, David McHugh, Tim Greenwood and Michael Moloney, and Niall Dowling of the RIYC prepared the boat for the race.

Michael Boyd’s “Sailor of the Month” write-up also told us he’d done the Sydney-Hobart in 1993, the Newport-Bermuda in 1994, and the Fastnet in 1995, so with the Round Ireland won in 1996, you’d think that might be mission accomplished. But things were only getting going, and twenty years later he was back again – after much offshore racing since including being a winning co-skipper in the Irish Commodore’s Cup Team of 2014 – to race as Commodore Royal Ocean Racing Club in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race, skippering the First 44.7 Lisa in which he was to finish third overall, and best Irish boat.

lisa round ireland 163The First 44.7 Lisa at the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016

theo michael boyd4Race organiser Theo Phelan around midnight in Wicklow with Michael Boyd when the latter had just finished the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 to place third overall.

Since then he has linked up with the JPK 10.80 Audrey for racing in Ireland, but he continues to make the scene with the core RORC programme in the English Channel with the First 44.7 Lisa, and last weekend he was one of a goodly fleet in the seasonal opener, the Cervantes Trophy from Cowes to Le Havre, with a very strong French contingent taking part.

0ne of them, the J/133 Pintia skippered by top French sailor Bruno Trouble, won overall from a fleet which reflected the fact that IRC continues to give very good racing for boats of all sizes, types and – in some cases – quite significant ages, as the J/133 dates from 2006, second by just 6 minutes was the Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan (Paul Kavanagh), third was Noel Racine’s regularly campaigned JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew, and fourth was the veteran Swan 55 yawl Lulotte (Ben Morris).

As for Lisa with Michael Boyd, she’d a good race, coming second to Pintia in Class 2, and ninth overall in a fleet of 84 starters. That looked like a pretty good turnout for the time of year, so Afloat.ie tracked down the Commodore of the RORC during the week to see did he share our feeling that there really is a new buzz to the offshore scene, and he responded with enthusiasm:

“Our sport seems to be in rude health these days, with much positive news to report. A Rolex Fastnet Race year always brings out many boats for the summer season. In last weekend’s Cervantes Race, RORC welcomed 84 starters, twice the 2016 figure, and 78 of them made it to Le Havre, more than four times last year’s number when a shocking squall had quite an impact.

Particularly gratifying are marked increases in women and young people taking part. And at home, the numbers are up for the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race, and ISORA’s revival is a source of continuing joy. Long may it continue!”
-Michael Boyd, May 4th 2017

cervantes trophy5Last weekend’s RORC Cervantes Trophy Race from Cowes to le Havre attracted 84 starters – double the 2016 entry – and Lisa placed second in Class 2 and 9th overall. Photo RORC/Rick Tomlinson

In such a mood of goodwill, Afloat.ie didn’t delve too deeply into other interesting developments within the energetic RORC machine, where Dr Jason Smithwick – who has an impressive background in academia, the research industry, and international sailing administration - will be taking over the key role in administering the IRC. Nor indeed did we enquire further into last week’s rumour that our own Marcus Hutchinson is quietly working behind the scenes to bring about a rapprochement between the IRC and the ORC. Because the fact is, the season is upon us, and for the next three months, the business of racing is top of the agenda.

In the Irish Sea it has been at the top since April 22nd, when ISORA’s opening day saw season-starting coastal races on both sides of the Channel, with the Irish side doing best in turnout, 22 boats starting at Dun Laoghaire and finishing at Wicklow, with Andrew Algeo’s J/109 Juggerknot taking the honours.

It’s thanks to the dogged enthusiasm of people like Stephen Tudor in Pwllheli and Peter Ryan in Dun Laoghaire that ISORA has been kept going to be ready and waiting for the renewed interest in offshore racing. This new enthusiasm stems in part from a reaction against the pattern developing the major cruiser-racer regattas, where some race officers pride themselves on fitting in two or even three races in a day.

For those of the offshore racing frame of mind, one or two starts in a week is quite enough, thank you, and they like their races to take long enough to settle down and develop a character of their own. The feeling among such folk is that modern life ashore is often a case of trying to cram as many starts as possible into each day, and they only find genuine relaxation in an alternative challenge which is taken in a very different kind of time frame.

That – more or less – is the explanation given recently by someone who has succumbed to the charm of the modern ISORA programme, which has become so user-friendly that it even includes Howth’s Lambay Race on June 3rd. Admittedly it has a slightly lower points rating of 0.9, but with 35 miles to be sailed by the big boat classes, it is indeed a miniature offshore race, and one which at times give the taste of the sport at its best in terms of amateur enjoyment and a change from the hassles of shore life.

Thus although they’re both under the broad umbrella of offshore racing, there really could be no greater contrast than that between the sailing of your average ISORA enthusiast, and the sailing of Tom Dolan on the Minitransat circuit.

Growing up on a little farm beyond Kells in County Meath, one day Tom and his father got the notion of going sailing on the picturesque Lough Ramor just up the road, so they bought themselves a sailing boat of sorts in County Roscommon and – self-taught – they did indeed find that sailing had something for them.

lough ramor6A long way from Concarneau.....Tom Dolan first discovered sailing on Lough Ramor.

Even though the urge lay dormant in young Tom for his school years in Mullingar when Gaelic football and soccer took over his life, it was when he was 19 and at the outdoor activities education establishment Colaiste Dhulaigh, which is spread over four locations in Dublin and Malahide, that the sailing bug emerged again with an introduction to Glenans in Baltimore, and this time he was hooked for real.

Not only was he a natural sailor who was avid to learn more, but he proved to be a brilliant coach. There were others who realized that Tom Dolan was putting even more into sailing than he was taking out of it, and firm friendships were made, none firmer than that with Gerry Jones, who continues to live in Ireland where he has a busy working life. But he also acts as a voluntary agent for Tom, who in 2009 began to get involved in the sailing scene in France, and has steadily increased that involvement until he is now a leading figure in the Ministransat 650 programme.

It is by no means a gilded path he has chosen. Thirty million people in France may be closely interested in sailing, and they’ll take you to their Gallic hearts as you become part of their sailing scene. But the only sailing the Irish general public take much real interest in is the Olympics, and that’s when a medal may be in prospect. So an Irish rookie with very limited resources trying to get on the ladder in France – which is the only real ladder for high level offshore racing – has several mountains to climb.

But he knew what had to be done, and he knew how he could do it, for by this time he was being drawn into the 10-boat Minitransat community in Concarneau, which is well established as the CEMC (Centre d’Entrainement Mini de Concarneau). It sounds rather grand, but every cent has to be counted, and all involved are constantly looking for ways to increase income, maximise the boat’s performance, train and train again, and race.

cemc flotilla8Members of the CEMC group at Concarneau, Tom Dolan on left

cemc flotilla8The Minitransat 650s of CEMC at Concarneau – Tom Dolan’s Pogo 650 Mark 3 (new in 2016) is number 910

It’s worth it, as they have the great Gildas Mahe as coach, and last year every major race was won by one of the Concarneau group, including a victory for Tom himself. But getting to this level involved making a living doing deliveries and anything else involving high seas expertise, and using a borrowed Pogo 2 for his inaugural full season in 2015.

The Pogo 650 started life in 1995, and she’s now into Mark 3, one of the mainstays of the entire Minitransat scene. By 2015, the Mark 2 was off the pace, but Tom Dolan stuck at it to gain experience, and it was his father, with whom he’d shared those first sailing moments on Lough Ramor so many years ago, who made it possible to move on. For on his death in 2011, while the family farm was kept, he left Tom a modest legacy, and young Tom decided to blow the lot on getting involved with his own boat, and placed an order for the most basic available version of the Pogo 650 Mark 3.

work on pogo9Tom getting the keel bulb perfectly faired. Members of CEMC expect to do most of their boat work themselves

work on pogo10Commissioning the new 2016 boat – IRL 910 – basically involved Tom in fully equipping a bare shell.

He had much to do with installing electrics and equipment and just abut everything else from scratch before his new boat was ready to go racing in 2016, but it was well worth it, and by season’s end he was feted in the local press and internationally as “The Flying Irishman”. To keep the show on the road, he and his friend and fellow-skipper Francoise Jambou run their own 650 Training Centre which, with Tom’s brilliant coaching talents, provides a useful stream of income.

But as the sailing level escalates, so do the costs, and he’s very appreciative of sponsorship from home in the shape of Dubarry Ireland and Ding, while the strength of French interest in sailing generally is shown by support from Cellastab, Techniques Voiles, Renostye, Studio des Schizographes and of course his local pub, the Petite Bistro, where he’ll be celebrating the third place in the Pornichet Select 300 tonight, and maybe a toast to success in next Tuesday’s 500 miles race.

francois and tom11Tom Dolan (right) with sailing partner Francois Jambou celebrating victory with the new boat in a two-handed race.

tom and karen12Tom from Meath and Karen from Lyons in Montserrat, where he’d sailed on a delivery voyage

As for what it’s like being Concarneau-based on a year-round basis, even with the camaraderie and constant work and training of the CEMC, the winters can be long enough if you don’t line up a sunny delivery trip now and again. It was after one of these to the Caribbean and Montserrat that Tom met the significant other, Karen from Lyons, so now life back in Concarneau has a certain domesticity to it that was formerly lacking.

That said, domesticity is of a very rationed variety when you’re into sailing at this level, and Tom Dolan’s proposed programme for 2017 shows his level of commitment, and the continuing requirement for a solid sponsorship package, as the countdown to the Minitransat on October 1st at La Rochelle continues.

22nd April: Pornichet 350 Select (placed 3rd out of 52 boats)

May 9th Mini en Mai 500 miles
June 8th Trophee Marie-Agnes Peron
June 18th Mini Fastnet 600 miles (two-handed with Francois Jambou)
July 30th Transgascogne
October 1st Mini Transat (from La Rochelle)

Even as the programme is being implemented. Tom Dolan’s supporters behind the scenes are beavering away to put together a support package which will make the Mini-Transat a properly resourced challenge.

pornichet select13The contemporary French fleet of 52 actively-campaigned Mini 650s is an impressive sight on the starting line.

pornichet select15Getting clear and getting ahead – IRL 910 departs Pornichet

pornichet select15After being in the lead within five miles of the finish of the 300-mile Pornichet Select on April 26th, Tom Dolan in IRL 910 had to be content with third in the fleet of 52 at the finish.

And beyond that? Team Tom Dolan are very interested in the confirmation of a decision which is expected to come from the Mid-Year Meeting of the World Sailing Council which is currently under way in Singapore (from May 5th to May 9th). Before it is the final acceptance of an invitation from the International Olympic Council to World Sailing to propose Showcase Events to be held alongside the Sailing Olympiad 2020 in Tokyo to demonstrate the potential of both kiteboarding and offshore racing to be Olympic events.

For offshore racing, the proposal is already taking shape for a 9-12m totally One-Design boat, to be raced two-handed, the fleet for the Showcase Event at Tokyo being envisaged at 18 to 20 boats. It’s emphasized that this is only a showcase, it’s not real Olympics. But it could be a guide for the future, and we’ve no doubt that if such an event were to be held in 2020 beside the Olympics, the participants would regard it as very much for real.

It’s certainly of considerable interest to Tom Dolan and his team, for they’re very aware that you’re in a different league in Ireland when you’re trying to raise support for an Olympic campaign rather than something which is seen as more of a niche interest.

But quite what your traditional offshore racer, setting off in their favourite ISORA or RORC event, will think of the prospect of their beloved sport being sucked down into the Olympic maelstrom is something else altogether - a topic for another day

Published in W M Nixon

Royal Irish's Andrew Alego made an impressive ISORA debut yesterday in a tricky light wind race from Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow. The new–to–the Bay, J109 Juggerknot port–tacked a 24–boat fleet in very light airs off the Dun Laoghaire startline.

In yet another impressve performance for the design, J109s took the top four places in the 25–miler. Second was Tim Goodbody's White Mischief also from the Royal Irish Yacht Club and third the Irish National Sailing School's Jedi skippered by Kenny Rumball. 

Light winds prevailed for much of the morning, so it was a slow race that ultimately meant only two–thirds of the Dun Laoghaire fleet finished off Wicklow Sailing Club yesterday afternoon. Eight boats were recorded as 'Did Not Finish'.

The fine turn out of 24 boats at Dun Laoghaire is a reversal of fortunes for the Dublin offshore sailing scene and follows similar lifts in numbers in 2015 and 16. 

ISORA StartWith under a minute to the start, the 23–boat was shy of the Dun Laoghaire line. Race winner Juggerknot is closest and preparing to flip onto port tack for the Burford buoy Photo: Afloat.ie

Back in 2007, the then ISORA Chairman John Rose gave notice to nine clubs on both sides of the Irish sea that November's agm would be the last citing a "lack of interest".

Juggerknot ISORANew ISORA entrant – Juggerknot from the Royal Irish Yacht Club

A decade later, thanks to efforts to rekindle the offshore fleet on both sides of the Irish Sea, yesterday's first race of the 2017 calendar amassed a buoyant fleet of 37 with 13 boats racing simultaneously from Pwllheli in North Wales. It is a satisfying result that ISORA Chief Peter Ryan says he is determined  to build on. 'This size fleet has not been seen in ISORA for many years' he told Afloat.ie

The first race of the Overall ISORA Avery Crest Offshore Championship 2017 was also the first race in the ISORA Viking Marine Coastal Series 2016 and the Royal Alfred Coastal Series 2016. The weather forecast for the race was for little or no wind leaving a very difficult task for the Sailing Committee to set the course.

This first race saw the appearance of some new boats to ISORA. Tim Goodbody’s J109, “White Mischief”, Jonathan Bourke’s J109, “Dear Prudence”, Larry Power’s First 31.7, “Kalamar”, Brian Hett’s Dufour 40, “Oystercatcher”, Andew Algeo’s J109 “ Juggerknot”, Robert Rendell’s XC45, “ Samaton” and Jim Schofield’s Nicholson 32, “Thisbe”. Paul Egan and Colm Buckley have returned to the ISORA fleet with new boats First 35, “Platinum Blonde” and J109, “Indian”. “Jedi” J109 has changed owners and has returned to ISORA with Kenneth Rumball.

With the forecast of 3-7 knots NW veering and decreasing 2-3 knots E and veering later to 3-7 knots S, setting a course that would get most boats finished was always going to be difficult. The Race Committee set the course shortly before the start to: Start in Dun laoghaire – South Burford (S) – North and Finish in Wicklow – a course of 22 miles.

The winds at the start were light north-easterly as the fleet of 24 boats headed off towards the first mark in the south going tide. Fluky winds and conditions at the start made it difficult for many of the boats to get fast off the start line. “Juggerknot” and “Lively Lady” led the fleet that turned out to be a beat or tight fetch to the first mark.

Shortly after rounding the first mark, the boats headed in a run down towards the finish with the south going tide. In the decreasing winds and strong tide rounding the South Burford proved to be difficult and split the fleet. The front bunch led by “Lively Lady” drifted towards Wicklow in the fickle winds.

The winds continued to decrease and shift making progress very slow. While the fleet never stopped, at time it was only the south going tide that provided progress for the fleet. The leading buch also included, “Tsunami”, “Platinum Blonde”, “Jedi”, “Aurelia”, White Mischief”, “Dear Prudence” and “Another Adventure”.

As the wind had veered to the south east and increased slightly at the same time as the tide was turning north, “Juggerknot” crossed the finish line first to take 1st in IRC Overall and Class 1 and 2nd in ISORA ECHO Overall and Class1. “Jedi” too 1st in ISORA ECHO while “Albireo” took Silver Class.

16 of the 24 boats finished and made their way into Wicklow harbour for the usual ISORA après sail get together at WSC, some in time to see the “Munster match”!! Crews gathered in 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.

The next race is the first offshore on the 13th May from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire. It is hoped that there will be another large combined fleet taking part in preparation of the D2D race in June and the Fastnet race in August.

Full results here 

ISORA INSS JediThe INSS J109 Jedi, the only boat to set a gennaker from the Dun Laoghaire start was third in the race to Wicklow. Photo: Afloat.ie

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An ISORA move to deal with professional sailors racing in its expanding 2017 fleet has been amended just in time for the first race of the season tomorrow.  

Following instructions received at the AGM in December and in keeping with the spirit of ISORA, the offshore body now say that the definition provided by World Sailing for Group 3 has been considered by most of its skippers to be 'overly onerous' and 'potentially detrimental to the growth and advancement of ISORA'.

As a result ISORA has amended its Notice of Race and 'Group 3' sailors are redefined as 'ISORA Group 3'.

Group 3 sailors are persons who are paid to sail on boats competing in an ISORA race (reasonable expenses allowed). 

ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan told Afloat.ie: 'The rule does not eliminate sailmakers or pro–sailors as long as they do not accept payment to race'. 

Ryan added: 'Those paid to race in ISORA, will be accommodated in a class of their own and are not eligible for the main prizes. Pro sailors not paid to race are welcome in ISORA'. 

The rule change met with immediate approval from one pro at least, telling Afloat.ie it was 'a sensible ISORA solution to an ISORA problem'.

But reader Kevin Byrne, commeting on this article on social media, described the move as a 'pointless change'. 'You won't be able to prove they are paid or not', he wrote on Facebook.

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2017 ISORA offshore racing on the Irish Sea starts this weekend with two coastal races - one in Ireland and one in Wales and with a bumper fleet of 35+ boats expected on the two start lines.

The Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow race starts at 10am and is organised by the National Yacht Club in conjunction with the Royal Alfred Yacht Club

The Pwllheli Coastal Race, where a fleet of 12 is assembling in the North Wales harbour is one long bay race starting at 1010hrs.

The early forecast is for 14–knot, northerly winds with blue skies, just perfect for sailing.

Both races will be tracked by Yellow brick trackers.

Pwllheli Sailing Club Commodore Eifion Owen is hosting a post race reception. 

This year, as previously reported on Afloat.ie, the ISORA fleet will also race under ECHO handicap.

Published in ISORA

After a very successful tenth ISORA season last year, offshore campaigner Peter Hall from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire decided to relocate his Beneteau First 34.7 and try his hand in warmer climes! Adélie went south last autumn and is now based in Ibiza, and this was the first race of his season.

It is the 30th anniversary of the Ruta de la Sal regatta (Salt Race) and the first time they've had a Salina class in the race - for boats skippered by a female (Mairead Ni Cheallachain in the case of Adelie pictured below with trophy) and with at least 50% female crew (Adelie had Antonia O'Rourke, Louise Dwyer, Susan Delaney, Noel Butler and Sam Hunt as well as Peter and Ni Cheallachain). It's an initiative by the Spanish to try and encourage more female participation in offshore racing. There were seven boats entered in the Salina class (2 x First 40.7, X302, Oceanis 43, Bavaria 50, Sunfast 32 - all Spanish boats).

92 boats overall raced from Denia on the mainland, south around Formentera and then north around the Ibiza coast to a finish in San Antonio, Ibiza - a course of roughly 125nm.

Maired with Salt race trophy

The race took just over 26 hours in starting in beautiful moderate champagne sailing conditions, which overnight fell to very light, leading to some very tactical, technical racing!

In the overall fleet Adelie came 13th of 92 - in her racing class A3 they came 6th of 20 and won the Salina class ahead of the two local 40.7s

Results are here

Published in ISORA

The annual 'lift–in' of yachts at the four waterfront yacht clubs at Dun Laoghaire Harbour last weekend means one thing: there is just two weeks until the first races of the summer sailing season on Dublin Bay

Up to 300 boats ranging from ten–foot dinghies right up to 50–foot ocean-going keelboats will compete in a variety of separate series and regattas.

The first of which is the ISORA offshore series of the year. It begins on Saturday, April 22nd. The following Tuesday, April 25th, the Sherry Fitzgerald sponsored Dubin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) season gets underway. Read Commodore Chris Moore's season preview here.

ISORA sees action on both sides of the Irish Sea. Firstly there is a coastal race from Pwllheli sponsored by Global, forming part of the Global displays Welsh coastal series, and the full ISORA series and simultaneously a coastal race from Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow, sponsored by Viking Marine forming part of the RAYC coastal series and of course the full ISORA series.

Both races will be tracked by Yellow brick trackers.

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Time was when the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race was promoted as a handy way to position your little old cruiser in West Kerry to be nicely placed to make her way in gentle hops back to her home port on the south or east coast, ambling in leisurely stages along one of the finest cruising grounds in the world writes W M Nixon.

It was envisaged primarily as a sort of enlarged club race, the club setting the tone being the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. There, enthusiastic members and Dingle race plotters Martin Crotty, Peter Cullen and Brian Barry added a further attraction when promoting the first race, as it drew nearer in 1993, by suggesting that real dyed-in-the wool cruising types might find the race of interest if they were thinking of continuing with a clockwise cruise on round Ireland.

dingle harbour 2Dingle Harbour makes for an attractive destination...

dingle marina3…while its marina is enticing for cruisers and racers alike

Lovely idea. But so far as I know – though it’s very much hoped that I’ll be rapidly informed otherwise – it is this goggle-eyed wordsmith focused on his ancient computer screen who is still the only cruiser-racer skipper who has completed the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, and then cruised on round Ireland.

We did it in handy stages, leaving the boat in Dingle for ten days after the race was completed to return home to the word-production coalface, then going on to leave her on a mooring we’d laid at Arbear at the head of Clifden Bay after we’d cruised the Aran Islands and Connemara in detail, followed by another return home for the manufacture of merchandisable verbiage. Then the third stage was home to Howth round the top, with Donegal doing its best to rival Kerry for dramatic scenery.

However, that was all a very long time ago. In fact, it was so long ago it was the first time I’d sailed with a proper pair of Dubarry Shamrock Goretex boots. I’d previously had an experimental leaky pair from a different manufacturer with which I’d persisted for years, so I can still remember the sheer joy of dry warm feet whatever the weather after the genuine Dubarrys had been deployed.

But enough of such ramblings - even if it does serve to remind us of the way the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race has become a much-loved part of our sailing world. And as for the reason for people not cruising on round Ireland when being in Dingle leaves them so handily placed for continuing the circuit - the answer is simple. The fact is that the course of almost 300 miles has taken them as swiftly as possible past some of the most glorious cruising places in Ireland, and the only way the skipper can keep his shipmates plugging on is by swearing on all that is holy that they’ll cruise gently back the same way in a much more civilised style.

In such circumstances, you’re whistling against the wind in trying to sell the coast of Connacht as the more interesting way to get home. Yet from an early stage, even the notion of the Dingle dash as having a strong cruising orientation hasn’t really held up for a significant part of the entry. People go into it with every intention of winning, and the talk of conveniently positioning the boat for a spot of cruising in Kerry and West Cork has only been smoke and mirrors.

dingle yacht tracker4The Yellowbrick record of the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race in 2015. Sometimes the fleet has been even more widely spread than this

The pace was set from the off in 1993, when the winner was Richard Burrows’ Sigma 36 Black Pepper. In subsequent years, she was cruised to Greenland and other Godforsaken spots in the ownership of fellow Malahide sailor Peter Killen, so Black Pepper has a boat history which must make her the best-used Sigma 36 ever. Certainly for the Dingle dash of 1993, skipper Burrows shipped aboard the formidable talents of Peter Wilson and Robert Dix as the main occupants of the driving seat, and Black Pepper had a wellnigh perfect race.

That said, at the riotous prize-giving afterwards – the Dingle prize-giving is always riotous, just relax and enjoy it – Black Pepper’s skipper gave a wildly funny speech which he rounded out by presenting Robert Dix with the Golden Blanket Award. As to what was meant by that I haven’t a clue, so you’ll have to ask Dixie himself. But as he has been winning major awards of every kind since 1970 when he became the youngest ever Helmsmans Champion, the Golden Blanket goes well in his trophy cabinet.

With the first race off to such a humdinger inauguration, the vision of the founders had been justified. Well, perhaps “vision” is overstating it. At this week’s launching of the 2017 staging, which will be on June 14th, longtime organiser Martin Crotty revealed that the idea of the Dingle Race came about almost by misadventure.

martin crotty5The founding Dingle Race organiser Martin Crotty reminiscing about the early days in 1993 at this week’s reception in the National Yacht Club. Photo Michael Chester

peter cullen6Peter Cullen was another of the inspired group who first thought of the race in 1992. Photo: W M Nixon

He and fellow owner Peter Cullen had been doing the 1992 Round Ireland Race with their hefty Sigma 41 Koala, and in slugging up the west coast into a particularly unpleasant northerly (I remember that one too), their mainsail went into several pieces on the latitude of Loop Head, so they retired and ran back to Dingle, a place they didn’t know at all.

They got to know it very well indeed over the next day or two, and the hospitality the little West Kerry port meted out to them – with the Dingle Skellig Hotel more or less providing open house – soon got them thinking that a race there rather than sailing all the way round the Emerald Isle would be an interesting alternative in the years when the biennial Round Ireland Race from Wicklow was not being staged.

Such ideas seem marvellous over a pint or three as midnight draws on, then fade from the memory. But there was some special chemistry already at work between the can-do Dun Laoghaire sailors and the maritime-minded folk of Dingle. Perhaps it’s because both ports think they’re the hub of the universe…… Whatever the secret ingredient, by 1993 in Dingle Harbour, Master Brian Farrell was ready to welcome the fleet, a new marina was in the making, and Dingle was on the cusp of an entirely new era.

dingle town7Dingle in the far west of Kerry has formed strong links with Dun Laoghaire in Dublin Bay, yet the two places could not be more different.

As for the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, we knew it was fully part of the scheme of things by 1995, as Denis Doyle turned up to compete with Moonduster. Once that happens, you know your race has arrived, and “The Doyler and The Duster” were honoured participants for many years, encouraging some very substantial boats to subsequently take part, with new heights being reached in 2009 when Michael Cotter’s handsome 78ft Whisper brought a touch of global glamour and a new record, though she missed the magic 24 hours by 43 minutes and 45 seconds.

As each race succeeded its predecessor, a bonus emerged when it was acknowledged that the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle would count as a qualifier for the Fastnet Race, which would as usual be staged about eight weeks later. By this stage the race had so much going for it that it seemed impervious to setback, but like everything else in Irish life, it went through diminished times during the recessionary years.

denis doyle8When “The Doyler and The Duster” (Denis Doyle and Moonduster) became involved from 1995 onwards, the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race was made. This is a page from the August 199 Afloat magazine, with Moonduster much in evidence in the race report. The winner that year was Donal Morrissey’s GK34 Joggernaut from Galway, and in those days the start was in Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

But then came 2015, and the numbers were back up, and then some. Having seen his pet project through times good and bad, Martin Crotty had indicated that this 12th Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race would be the last he would personally administer, but already a strong successor was being briefed in the person of Adam Winkelmann. And in the 2015 race he had a vintage familiarisation to observe how it all worked, though as his mother Carmel was for many years one of the time-keepers, he started from a position of inside knowledge.

Over the years, the Dingle Skellig Hotel, which showed such generosity to the sea-battered crew of Koala way back in 1992 – leading to the inception of the race – has stayed on board as co-sponsor, and everyone’s longterm faith in the event was born out in 2015’s race, which was a classic. Before it, the atmosphere around the National Yacht Club was pure carnival, and while the start may have been slow, the winds soon filled in from the north and the fleet scampered down the east coast.

Out in front, the line honours battle was between Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners from Dun Laoghaire and Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 40 Antix from Cork, and they went so well that for a while it looked like Antix might get the corrected time win. But holes in the wind at the Fastnet and beyond shook up the order, and by the finish it was glory day for J Boats, with the Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth (NYC) winning by 20 minutes from her Pwllheli-based sister-ship Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), the first foursome being very complete for the Johnstone brothers as the J/122 Aurelia was third and the J/109 Dear Prudence was fourth.

Antix dingle 2015Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 40 Antix crossing the finish line at Dingle in 2015

liam shanahan10Overall 2015 winner Liam Shanahan at the helm of his J/109 Ruth with Skellig Michael put astern, and crewman Kevin Daly trimming the main for the final stage up Dingle Bay to the finish.

dingle party llAfter a rugged race, there’s nothing like an al fresco party at Dingle

But in a fascinating contest, almost every boat was having her day at one stage or another, and for those who were doing the race as a Fastnet qualifier, it came up trumps. Irish Offshore Sailing’s 36ft Jeanneau Desert Star may have only been in the middle of the fleet in the Dingle results, but her crew were on a learning curve and on top form by the time they did the Fastnet Race, so much so that they won overall in the 33-boat fleet making up the Sailing Schools Division, a well-earned dream result for skipper Ronan O Siochru.

So Martin Crotty handed over a prestigious event in really good order to Adam Winkelmann after all the D2D business was done and dusted in 2015, and this week’s launching reception in the National Yacht Club for what is now the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race was one of those gatherings which ticked so many boxes that we could get a month’s worth of Sailing on Saturdays out of it.

The heartwarming sense of continuity was palpable. Not only was Adam Winkelmann taking over the D2D from Martin Crotty, but in the host club, Ronan Beirne had been barely a wet week as the new Commodore in succession to Larry Power. To say that the speeches were in tune with the mood of the evening barely gets the flavour of it. It was a time for nostalgia, a time for relishing the present, and a time for keenly anticipating the future, with all aspects covered.

adam winkelmann12Adam Winkelmann, chair of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Dingle race Committee, reveals his hopes for 2017’s race and the races beyond. Photo: Michael Chester

It was Adam Winkelmann who summed it all up in a friendly presentation – he does it so painlessly that the word “speech” is way too pompous – effortlessly telling us about the new dynamic with the lineup with Volvo, the continued support from Dingle with the Dingle Skelligs Hotel joined by Crean Brewery – and the growing interest from the RORC with that club’s Janet Grosvenor – a very good friend to Irish offshore racing – planning to monitor the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2017 with a view to giving it greater recognition in the RORC’s 2019 programme.

dingle volvo adam13Graham Fitzgerald of the Dingle Skellig Hotel, Patricia Greene of Volvo Car Ireland, Adam Winkelmann, and Jerry O’Sullivan of Crean Brewery, Dingle. Photo Michael Chester

As it is, the 2017 race will start on the evening of Wednesday June 14th, which research among competitors has show is reckoned as the most user-friendly time for those fitting the race into work breaks, as it means you can definitely do a three day week, yet have every chance of making the clock-in at the workplace first thing Monday morning.

Thus the prize-giving will be on Saturday night, and it is being moved beck to the Dingle Skelligs’ sister establishment, Benners Hotel in the heart of town. As for the bigger picture, the timing also allows a useful gap before the Sovereigns Cup series starts at Kinsale on June 21sr, but while the start time will be tight for anyone who also plans to also do the ICRA Nationals at Crosshaven from Friday June 9th to Sunday June 11th, in times past we’d have reckoned that’s it a logistical challenge which is do-able, you just draw lots for the three guys who are going to take the boat to Dun Laoghaire as soon as the last race at Crosser is over.

As if that’s not enough of a challenge, Ric Morris has lately been airing a suggestion that it’s time to think seriously about an Irish National Offshore Championship based around the many events already in existence. He reckons that with the Round Ireland and the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle races alternating at the peak of this annual season-long series, we’d have an intriguing setup which has the potential to involve many boats – and he means many big time.

Certainly the imprimatur of the RORC on the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race would give it turbo power, making it a serious points accumulator apart from being a superb race in its own right. Truly it has moved on a long way from being a handy little club-oriented event best used to position your boat in Ireland’s finest cruising ground. But we shouldn’t be surprised, when we remember that the Fastnet Race itself started in a very modest way in 1925. It was so shunned by the sailing establishment that it couldn’t get a starting line at Cowes, and had to be sent eastward out of the Solent from the start line of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club at Ryde.

ronan beirne14Brian Farrell, Harbour Master of Dingle when the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle race was inaugurated in 1993, Ronan Beirne the newly-elected Commodore of the National Yacht Club, and Yannick Lemonnier, who will be racing a Minitransat 650 to Dingle. Photo Michael Chester

Presumably the RORC still sends the RVYC an annual Christmas card as a token of their appreciation of that display of faith way back in 1925, now that the hugely popular Fastnet Race is started from all the glory of the Royal Yacht Squadron line at Cowes.

And as for the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race in all its manifestations, while it has always been comfortably under the imprimatur of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, the developing positive attitude towards sailing at official levels in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown was underlined by the official presence at Tuesday’s gathering of Councillor Cormac Devlin, Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council.

But while the new turbo power of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race was quietly in evidence at the party in the National YC this week, it was good to meet up with old friends from Dingle from the earliest days, particularly the former Harbour Master Brian Farrell whose enthusiasm for his job always went way beyond the call of duty.

There too were Brian Barry and Peter Cullen, both of whom did so much to put the show on the road and keep it there through times good and bad. But it was appropriate that also present was the one and only Yannick Lemonnier, who did the race in the two-handed division in 2015 (he was second to Howth’s Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles) but in 2017 will be doing it in a new special division which has been encouraged into the fray by the National’s Sailing Manager Olivier Prouveur.

Yes indeed – the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race will be providing a start for Mini 650 boats, and Yannick Lemonnier will be right in the thick of it all. They’ll get a separate prize and won’t be in the IRC Division, but it’s a new twist in a race which, in 2017, will also have a new old twist.

david thomas15David Thomas, MD of Volvo Car Ireland, with Emma O’Carroll, also of Volvo Car Ireland, and Darryl Hughes, owner-skipper of Maybird, the first gaff-rigged entrant in the Dingle Race. Photo Michael Chester

For no-one has any recollection of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race ever having a gaff-rigged entry in its 24 years. Yet the madly enthusiastic Darryl Hughes has entered his beautifully-restored 1937 Tyrrell-built 43ft gaff ketch Maybird. He knows he’ll be doing quite well to make it to Dingle in time for the prize giving. And then he’ll have to think of further schedules, as he is also entered for the Classics Division in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from July 9th to 12th. But in the National this week this week he was able to assure everyone that Maybird is already well n the way to being race ready. Sure hadn’t he and his mates scrubbed her and anti-fouled her – including a fresh boot-top – all on the one Spring tide at Poolbeg a couple of weeks ago? So the count-down is already well under way for the turbo-powered Volvo Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race 2017.

maybird scrub16Race preparation. Maybird gets completely re-antifouled and with a fresh boot-top a fortnight ago, all in one tide at Poolbeg

Published in W M Nixon

The Irish National Sailing School J109 yacht is available to charter for Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta and other Irish sailing events this season. 

Jedi is a highly competitive J109 yacht and part of DBSC's ultra–competitive Class One fleet of 20 boats on Dublin Bay. 

Regular readers of Afloat.ie will know the J109 class in Ireland needs no introduction, the cruiser racer offers exciting and exhilarating sailing yet in a very user friendly and comfortable package.

Jedi is, according to the INSS's Kenny Rumball, 'a perfect example of the J109 having undergone an extensive refit over the winter of 2016-2017 to make her possibly the most IRC optimized J109 available in Europe'

Download the INSS spec sheet below

Published in INSS
Tagged under

Ongoing technical issues with the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta website this week is giving sailors an extra opportunity to avail of a discounted early bird entry fee that was due to close today.

Organisers issued an apology via social media this morning adding two weeks to the entry deadline. VDLR say: 'Apologies for the chronic website problems this week - because of this we're EXTENDING the #EarlyBird entry deadline to 13th April'.

In the meantime, while the issues with the site are resolved, an entry list at March 20 is here. And the latest Dun Laoghaire Regatta news is on our dedicated section on Afloat.ie here

Published in Volvo Regatta
Page 10 of 29

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