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Irish Sailor Kenny Rumball to Break Down Barriers With New Offshore Racing Academy

5th November 2021
The Class 40 type yacht offers unlimited crew places in some class races. It can be used as a grassroot feeder for Irish sailors into the professional offshore racing scene says founder of a new Irish Offshore Racing Academy, Kenny Rumball
The Class 40 type yacht offers unlimited crew places in some class races. It can be used as a grassroot feeder for Irish sailors into the professional offshore racing scene says founder of a new Irish Offshore Racing Academy, Kenny Rumball Credit: courtesy Class 40 Association

After two seasons in France campaigning a Figaro 3 in both double-handed and solo sailing disciplines, it has become apparent to Irish offshore sailor Kenny Rumball that there are no grassroots feeds to the professional offshore racing scene in Ireland. The Dun Laoghaire Harbour dinghy and keelboat champion says this eliminates the progression of Irish sailors representing their country abroad in anything but the usual pathway of youth and Olympic high-performance sailing.

The prospect of a double-handed offshore mixed class for Paris 2024 sparked the imagination of many a sailor, sponsor and spectator, but unfortunately, this discipline will not be happening.

France is the hub of the offshore sailing scene and has quietly been so for many years. France plays host to the most significant offshore races, including the Vendee Globe, the Transat Jacques Varbe, Route Du Rhum, La Solitaire du Figaro, the list goes on…

Irish offshore sailor Kenny RumballIrish offshore sailor Kenny Rumball

However, there are comparatively few Irish sailors that have ventured into the scene.

In the past, we have had competitors in La Solitaire du Figaro, including Marcus Hutchinson, Damian Foxall, Dave Kenefick, Mick Liddy, Joan Mulloy and our most successful solitaire sailor so far, Tom Dolan.

 Ireland's most successful La Solitaire du Figaro sailor, Tom Dolan Ireland's most successful La Solitaire du Figaro sailor, Tom Dolan

Fewer still have gone on to pursue the ultimate offshore challenge in France, the Vendee Globe. Enda O'Coineen has been our most successful so far, but no Irish sailor has completed the Vendee Globe.

Why is this? Why do so few Irish sailors not take the relatively short ferry trip to France?

Enda O'Coineen - Ireland's only ever entry in the Vendee Globe RaceEnda O'Coineen - Ireland's only ever entry in the Vendee Globe Race

It became increasingly apparent that most young Irish sailors know very little about the offshore scene in France and the progression it takes to achieve results in races like La Solitaire du Figaro, the Mini Transat or the Transat Jacques Varbe.

I want to break down these barriers by getting young Irish sailors, both male and female, to France and exposing them to the different classes in the French offshore sailing community, including the Mini 6.50 fleet, the Beneteau Figaro 3 Fleet, the Class 40 fleet and even the ultimate IMOCA fleet.

Unfortunately for many of these classes, the races are solo or double-handed, except the Class 40 fleet, where there are unlimited crew in some races. The Class 40 is not a one-design fleet but is a 40-foot' box rule' class that aims to be cost-effective through the limitations of exotic build materials. The fleet was devised initially to bridge the gap between smaller 30-foot ocean racing boats and the Imoca 60 class of 60-foot offshore racing boats.

Through this boat class, I aim to give young Irish Sailors exposure to the elite offshore racing world that exists in France.

Some of the events available for Class 40 next year include; 

  • Les 1000 milles des Sables
  • Grand Prix Guyader
  • Normandy Channel race
  • Armen Race or Myth of Malham
  • Au Large de St Tropez
  • SSE Renewables Round Ireland Yacht Race
  • Drheam Cup (Course qualifier RDR)
  • Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland race

However, to help Irish offshore sailors progress, I'm looking for partners to help provide these offshore sailing experiences and grow the presence of Irish sailors in these demanding leagues.

There are costs to sailing, and France has shown the value of sponsorship to companies both large and small. Companies are fighting to become the title sponsor of the next Figaro, Class 40 and Vendee Globe campaigns.

Sponsor Medallia has purchased GB sailor Pip Hare a better boat for the 2024 Vendee Globe Round the World  RaceSponsor Medallia has purchased GB sailor Pip Hare a better boat for the 2024 Vendee Globe Round the World Race

There is a massive return on investment for companies within and outside France evident by a company such as Medallia who came on as a late sponsor for Pip Hare in the last Vendee Globe but got such a return on their spending, Medallia has already purchased Pip a better boat in anticipation of the next Vendee Globe in 2024!

The statistics speak for themselves; in the last Vendee Globe, there were 350,000 followers on Facebook alone, more than the number of followers on the World Sailing website, for example.

Ed's note: In an exciting few weeks for Irish offshore sailing, Cork pro Justin Slattery added a Middle Sea Race record to his CV as two Irish offshore solo racers compete in Transatlantic races. Galway's Yannick Lemonnier is racing in the MiniTransat as Afloat reports here and Wicklow's Jim Schofield in the new Adventure Globe 5.80 Transat Race here

Published in Offshore
Kenneth Rumball

About The Author

Kenneth Rumball

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Kenny Rumball is the Principal of the Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. He is a multi dinghy champion and offshore sailor. In 2018 he was awarded the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Seamanship Trophy for a Man Overboard Rescue in the Round Ireland Race. In May 2020 he embarked on a mixed offshore doublehanded keelboat campaign with Pamela Lee.

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