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Two years to the day that Ireland's Embarr team won the Melges 24 Worlds in Miami, Conor Clarke and Maurice 'Prof' O'Connell were back on the water for the 380–mile Round Jamaica Race on Mark Shield's Beneteau 35s5 "Breakaway". Mark is Commodore of the Royal Jamaica Yacht Club which is now Conor's home club. Prof takes up the story of a circumnavigation that ended suddenly

We were going very well, vying for first place on corrected time when, 15 miles from the finish in 25 knots of wind in tough upwind conditions, the starboard rod cap shroud failed at the turnbuckle and we were dismasted. We had a No. 2 genoa and a reef in the main at the time. It happened at 6 am yesterday morning.

We systematically cut all the lines, halyards, electrical cable and shrouds and sent the broken rig and the two sails to the ocean floor - including a brand new North Sails 3Di mainsail! Had we had more time, we would have tried to recover it all and bring it back onboard but we were drifting to a lee shore and had to move fast. It was an odd feeling - once the rig and all the bits had gone, there was an eerie silence which you wouldn't expect. Quite strange.

The good news is that it all went pretty smoothly, nobody was seriously hurt. En route home now via Miami.

Published in Offshore

The ninth day at sea in the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race saw the second capsize in this 11th edition of the four-yearly classic when a 50ft trimaran flipped over about 1,000 nautical miles east of Guadeloupe.

The first capsize came at the end of day two of the 3,452-nautical mile race a week ago when one of the biggest yachts in the 123-strong fleet, Banque Populaire IX, turned over after a major structural failure in a gale midway between the coast of Spain and the Azores. The boat’s skipper, Frenchman Armel Le Cleac’h, was quickly rescued by a Spanish fishing boat.

This time the yacht going upside down is the Multi50 class trimaran Arkema skippered by Lalou Roucayrol, another French sailor who is based near Bordeaux. Roucayrol is one of the most experienced solo offshore racers in big multihulls and was competing in his fourth Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.

In an initial message to his shore team he said the boat became over-powered by a sudden and violent spike in the easterly trade wind as he ran downwind towards the finish at Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe. He did not have time to stop his yacht tipping over but was able to keep safe within the main hull.

Giving further details today, the Team Arkema spokeswoman, Marie–Astrid Parendeau, said Roucayrol spent about four hours cutting the rig away from the boat and had spent time in the water doing this. The hull has not been damaged by the mast and Roucayrol has managed to salvage one of his sails. He is now safely back on board and has enough food for three or four days and water supplies for 10 days.

Ms Parendeau said a cargo ship has been diverted to his position but Roucayrol has made it clear he does not want to be rescued and is staying with his boat until a tug chartered by the team from Martinque reaches him in four days time.

Roucayrol was racing in fourth place at the time of the capsize and was about 400 miles behind the class leader, Armel Tripon on Réauté Chocolat. Tripon on his brown trimaran is now just over 500 miles from the finish and is expected at the line at around mid-day Universal Time tomorrow.

He has also been experiencing alarming variations in windspeed and has elected to take it easy to avoid suffering a similar fate as Roucayrol. "It could be better,” said a tired Tripon this morning. “That has been the most complicated, difficult night I've had since the start with gusts of 33-34 knots under gennaker. The sea got big quickly; it was really hard, so a tense night. So this morning, I rolled away the gennaker and it is away until the seas subside - it is a really difficult end to the race.”

About 12 hours after Tripon is expected to reach the line, the next finisher is expected to be Britain’s Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss who has led the 20-strong IMOCA monohull class almost continually from the start on November 4th. Thomson is just over 700 miles from the finish and about 160 miles ahead of his nearest pursuer (Paul Meilhat of France on SMA) and can’t wait to complete what will be his first victory in an IMOCA race.

"I am on my final gybe,” he said in a radio call this morning as Hugo Boss surfed at up to 20 knots in the boisterous trade winds. “I managed to get a bit of sleep over the night, not that much but I am really looking forward to getting in. There is not long now, less than a couple of days. That’s one Fastnet, one Fastnet race, that is all that is left. I should get in in daylight which is good timing really.

“I am a little nervous, yes, but the gap should be big enough,” added Thomson who has a group of four boats chasing him. “I am just trying to sail my normal race really, trying not do anything differently and keep things in the best shape I can. I don't need to push; on the other hand these boats do go fast. It is quite hard to make them go slow. I am not going to go super-slow; I will sail my normal race and I look forward to getting round the island and in." 

A long way behind him the only Finnish sailor in the IMOCA fleet and indeed in this 40th anniversary edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, Ari Huusella on Ariel II, has provided more detail about the brief and glancing crash between his boat and the monohull of French sailor Sébastien Destremeau who is lying in second place in the Rhum Mono fleet.

The incident happened in the early hours of yesterday in darkness as Huusella was heading west and Destremeau on board Alcatraz It FaceOcean was crossing his path while heading south at a position about 400 miles west-southwest of the Canary Island.

The Finn admitted today that he could see Destremeau approaching using the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that all boats in the race carry, but he had his screen on the wrong setting and did not realise how close the Frenchman – who was asleep and under auto-pilot – would be until it was too late.

“I was inside the boat and saw on the AIS that there was some traffic coming,” said Huusela who, like Destremeau, has been able to continue racing. “I saw the name of the boat and I knew who it was. I called him three times on the VHF but there was no reply. I checked that we were not going to hit on the AIS but our speeds were varying a lot because of the gusts. Sometimes we were going 10 and sometimes 17 knots – it was the same for both boats.

“The thing I did not realise was the scale on my AIS was only at 0.75 miles so the full screen was at less than a mile when he came into my screen. Normally I use the 15-mile scale. I was a bit tired and a bit disorientated and did not realise he was so close. When I realised he was so close, I went outside and I saw the nose of his boat coming at me at 17 knots. I thought ‘oh god, this is going to be the end.’ But luckily I managed to get under him so he hit the back corner of my stern, his bowsprit came into my pushpit, and it came off.”

Huusela said he initially thought the damage to his rigging might bring his mast down but he released the mainsail to ease the load and managed to save it. The sailors then spoke on VHF and Destremeau told him he had been asleep at the time of the crash and that he had some damage to his bowsprit. “We exchanged some e-mails last night and we are both happy,” added Huusela. “We are lucky because it could have been so much worse.” 

In the Class40 fleet the lead remains firmly in the hands of Frenchman Yoann Richomme on Veedol-AIC who has a margin of around 100 miles over second-placed Aymeric Chapellier on Aina Enfance Et Avenir. Chapellier reported today that he blew-up his spinnaker in a squall and has had to spend hours repairing it, turning the inside of his boat into a sewing workshop.

The 38-year-old sailor from La Rochelle was asleep when the boat broached in about 18 knots of breeze. “The sail literally exploded. I had to transform the interior of the boat into a sailmaker’s workshop and I worked on it all day, from sunrise to sunset. It was not easy because I had to leave the boat under the autopilot, with the big spinnaker,” he said.

“But I managed to repair my spinnaker and it held this morning when I used it. That being said, I walk a little on eggs now. I am trying to preserve all my spis, especially in this strange seaway. At times, it is really very short and it requires a lot of manoeuvres, which tires a little man.,” Chappellier added.

Published in Offshore

 A new offshore series of races that will come to Irish waters has been launched in the UK called the Formula Foil Ocean Racing (FFOR) with a first prize of £50k.

Racing in identical Beneteau Figaro 3 yachts FFORC has been launched by a new business created by Stuart Greenfield. The championship will run from Spring 2020 until February 2021, and then yearly, the winner will be declared in Antigua. The championship is open to any Beneteau Figaro 3 with a minimum crew of 4 and maximum crew weight limit of 500kg. The yachts will be hand steered and be strictly one design.

The concept will begin with 10 identical yachts being made available to the first 10 teams entering on a fully managed basis. The yachts will run by the new company from a single base on the Isle of Wight and offered to teams on a fully ‘step-on and race’ basis for £75,000(+ VAT) * for the championship. This includes full use of a race prepared Beneteau Figaro 3 yacht and a set number of training and leisure days plus all maintenance and race entries. Teams may be amateur, sponsored, or fully professional. Amateur teams, if needed, will be provided with training and relevant first aid, sea survival and radio VHF courses to achieve the necessary qualifications to meet the Category 1 standard to which the races will comply. All races will count towards the results with no discards. 

"The yachts will be hand steered and be strictly one design"

The race programme will provide a range of offshore races in the English Channel before venturing on longer races to Ireland, Lanzarote, and finally a transatlantic race. The race program will ensure that all crews build up their experience in longer more challenging races over the 10-month championship. There will also be a small inshore element to include races such as Round the Island.

The race management will include race training and coaching, where necessary, to ensure crews reach the highest proficiency. The yachts will be equipped to World Sailing Offshore Special Regulations Category 1. The schedule is uniquely designed so that most racing is at weekends and to compete teams will only have to set aside a normal standard employed holiday commitment to compete in all races thereby ensuring that team members can remain fixed over the full period. Of course, it is also envisaged that teams could be made up of a squad of members and this is also an acceptable format. The aim is to enable teams to compete at the highest standard in the world’s newest and most exciting foiling yachts and still have a day job. 

The £75,000 package enables an amateur crew of 5 people without sponsorship to race for 10 months, every week if they wanted, for £15,000 per head per year. This concept offers one of the most exciting opportunities to race in the most innovative foiling mono-hulls without having to buy, run or maintain the yacht themselves. For sponsors, the opportunity to promote their brands to an international audience will be fulfilled by the very latest, tracking, drone and satellite communications fitted to every yacht. For the English Channel races, the fleet will be followed day and night by a high-speed offshore motorboat fitted with drone and satellite upload capabilities to bring a completely immersive experience for online followers. For new and younger teams this also adds an element of safety to the format.

Companies wishing to enter the championship for promotional and brand development or for corporate incentives for staff will be offered full access to the FFORC marketing and communications teams to ensure that there is a measurable return on investment delivered. FFORC will also provide racing skippers and qualified team members if required by corporate teams. 

Offshore racing is currently growing in popularity especially in smaller yachts with a focus towards fewer crew. This gives each member of the team more to do and more excitement with a focus on adventure. The Formula Foil Ocean Racing Championship (FFORC) format provides all these key selling points with none of the downsides of owning and maintaining a race yacht.

First prize for the championship will be £50,000 with £25,000 for second and £5,000 for third prize. The prize money will be given to the registered team and there will be no distinction between professional sponsored entries and personally financed challenges. Championships will also be held in 2021 and 2022. 

With the minimum of 10 boats for the 2020 championships any team with a one-design Figaro 3 wanting to take part will also be accepted into the championships. The entry fee will be £5,000. There will also be special options for privately owned yachts wishing to make use of the championship base in Cowes which will be very competitively priced. 

Stuart Greenfield commented “The launch of the new Beneteau Figaro 3 provides a unique opportunity for the FFORC to bring an exciting format to the UK offshore racing community… and hopefully internationally. Ocean racing continues to grow in interest with the numbers of yachts competing on the increase. There is trend for smaller more exciting yachts with less crew doing more with the focus on adventure with the bonus of less time just sitting on the rail. It is also clear that sailors want to race in teams without the hassle of boat maintenance and depreciation, they also want to race together as equals against the best. FFORC delivers this with the excitement of the races growing in length and difficulty as the 10-month cycle rolls out. Ensuring the format is compatible with non-professional weekend orientated sailors provides a unique opportunity and this combined with coaching and race training and a significant prize winning will, I hope, also attract professionals and fully sponsored teams… if you’re ready for an adventure this is definitely the new ‘fforc’ in ocean racing!"

The Yacht

As Afloat.ie previously reported, the Figaro Beneteau 3 is the first production foiling one-design monohull ever to be designed. A distillation of technology and innovation. It results from a collaboration between Group Beneteau’s best experts and the Van Peteghem Lauriot-Prévost (VPLP) office, the architects of the two last boats to win the Vendée Globe

Title Sponsorship

Each team may be sponsored by any number of companies or individuals. FFORC is currently inviting title sponsorship from businesses or organisations. The opportunity includes yachts, website, event, and social branding across all media.

Published in Offshore

Waterford Harbour's Rob McConnell sailing the Archambault A35 'Fools Gold' is lying 18th from a fleet of 49 after the first two offshore races in Class C of The Hague Offshore Sailing World Championships 2018.

Full results are here.

After over 24 hours of sailing in light air off the Dutch North Sea coast, the opening act of The Hague Offshore Sailing World Championship has now concluded and the leaders are now known in each of three classes before the second stage of inshore racing begins tomorrow.

Scoring has been for a long race of 155 miles for Class A with a scoring gate at 70 miles, and a long race of 135 miles for Classes A and B with a scoring gate at 60 miles. Thus each class has two offshore races in their results: a short race worth 1.0 points weighting and a long race worth 2.0 points weighting.

After a start postponed until 12:30, each fleet started off in light 6-9 knot conditions that varied in strength and direction for the rest of the day and evening, reaching a high of about 12 knots at sunset before dropping again into single digits towards morning. With shifting breeze and currents at near springs in strength, it was a challenging night for all.

"It was a good course and a good test," said Eddie Warden-Owen, guest strategist aboard Tilmar Hansen's TP 52 Outsider. "We did not have the sail inventory options that Beau Geste had, and had to make some compromises - like going west of the windfarm on the final long leg to the finish - but it was a good race with lots of elements to make it interesting."

Outsider spent most of their race in lock-step behind Karl Kwok's Pac 52 Beau Geste, who won both races by a comfortable margin, with Outsider second and the Ker 46 Van Uden youth team in third, led by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Gerdjan Poortman and Dutch 470 Olympian Lobke Berkhout as coaches.

The racing in the top of Class B closely resembled that of Class A, with two boats leading the pack and pushing each other throughout their 135-mile track.
Claus Landmark's Landmark 43 Santa took an early lead and was clever to hold on to it throughout the race, due in no small part to the strong navigation skills of another Volvo veteran, Roger Nilsson, who has logged 7 Volvo and Whitbread races around the world.

"It was quite challenging, wind was shifty and we're not very used to the currents you have here, so it's good we had Roger's help," said Landmark "But we kept the boat moving, and since the Worlds in Copenhagen two years ago we have upgraded our rudder with a new design so the boat is going well."

It was another Norwegian Landmark 43, Torkjel Valland's White Shadow, that was never far from Santa and kept the pressure on throughout the race.

"We had some ups and some downs," said Valland. "After the start we got stuck on one of the buoys, and when we got loose, most of the fleet had passed us. But we managed to sail up to the front of the fleet again, until we reached Santa. After that it was back and forward with them. We tried to stick with them, but they continually found a gear and pulled away every time we got to them again. But overall we had a super race, and it gives great promise for the rest of the week. I think the top of this fleet will have some very close racing."

Rounding out the top three in Class B was Michael Berghorn's X-41 Halbtrocken 4.0 from Germany. All top three teams scored 1-2-3 in each of the two races.

Class C was more interesting, with no clear dominance in the results like in the other two classes. Instead there were different leaders in the results of each race, sometime with dramatic differences in scores.

In scoring at the gate for Race 1, a local designed and built 35-footer, Jan Boort's New Frontier, was ahead of the pack on elapsed time by over seven minutes yet corrected to third place, while Gideon Messink's J/112E J Lance 12 corrected to first and Michael Mollman's X 37 Hansen was second. But in the last long leg of the race this was all to change.

Just northwest of the harbor at Ijmuiden in the mid-morning breeze, about 25 miles from the finish, J Lance 12 and Hansen on rhumb line managed to get ahead of New Frontier, who was hedging a little closer to the beach to the east. Like a car wreck on the highway, J Lance stops, followed by Hansen and the pack of 3 other boats around them: the Farr 30 Cheyenne (SWE), the Melges 32 Old Jug (GER) and the Cussutti 36 Katariina II (EST). New Frontier shoots into the lead, but then strays west away from the middle track just west of Ijmuiden and starts to slow too.

Meanwhile, like a passing train, the Waarschip 36 Hubo (NED) came on fast from nowhere to grab the lead and never let it go for the remaining 20 miles to the finish. Others seeing Hubo do this end-around jumped on the train too, leaving those to the west helpless, with only Katariina and Hansen able to get out of the trap.

"We did not do very well in the first part of the race," said skipper Eric van Vuuren, "but we did have a game plan to hit the beach hard on the final leg and pick up the offshore breeze."

"Besides the weather forecast and knowing the tides, we also used the AIS system quite a bit to see what the others were doing," said Hubo navigator John van der Starre.

The results were spectacular, slinging Hubo and others in their wake into the lead to finish well ahead of many other rivals who were ahead of them at the scoring gate. And while Hubo still had to settle for a 4th in corrected time in this race, this was much better than the 34th earned in the first race

So, after all this drama in Class C it should be no surprise that a team who is a consistent performer from years of championship sailing currently has a six-point lead based on their scores of 6-1: Patrik Forsgren's modified First 36.7 Pro4U (SWE). In second is Heiko Pasler's X-362 Sport Static Electric (GER) on scores of 8-3, and currently in third is Alain Bornet's J/109 Jai Alai (NED) on scores of 5-6.

Phase two of the competition at the Offshore Worlds resumes tomorrow with the start of the first of seven planned inshore races. The teams will be given a respite tonight after the long race with a planned start time tomorrow in the afternoon at 1300 local time.

Published in Offshore

The 120–strong fleet of boats will today set off on the biennial drag race from Newport to Bermuda. Light winds and strong Gulf Stream affects are the main topics of pre-race conversation as a slow route lies ahead for all competitors.

Among the international field of sailors are at least five Irish, all of whom are looking to continue previous success on the east coast of America.

William Byrne of the National Yacht Club will be competing with the young team onboard J/V50 ‘Crazy Horse’ owned by Irish American, Kevin McLaughlin. The same team raced to a 3rd place finish in this years Caribbean 600 whilst also being the youngest team to finish the race.

This being the 3rd Bermuda campaign for Crazy Horse, the team will be aiming for a strong finish after their 2nd place in Class in the 2016 race.

Ben Lynch will be competing onboard a modified Volvo70 ‘Warrior’, (Previously Camper in the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race). This team is hoping to ride their hard-earned success this season after a 1st place finish in the Antigua to Bermuda race, Antigua Sailing Week, Around Antigua Race and 2nd across the line in the Caribbean600 just behind Rambler 88.

Ben Fusco will be aiming for a repeat performance of an overall CSA win in the Caribbean600 onboard Cookson50 ‘Privateer’. This time competing on an X483, Fusco will be taking on responsibility as navigator, no easy task in this race.

James Carroll is Boat Captain onboard Carkeek47 ‘Black Pearl’. Carroll has helped set this team up for continued success in recent years. Notable wins such as the Cape to Rio Race and podium finishes in multiple events on the east coast will have this team hungry for a class win sailing into Bermuda.

Sean McCarter, a native of Donegal, Ireland, currently living in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, is a crew on one of the more technologically advanced boats in the fleet, Maverick, which will easily stand out on the water with her Union Jack sails. “Excitement levels are high,” said McCarter of the mood onboard. McCarter has done his fair share of offshore sailing, including twice around the globe, but he was especially looking forward to his first Newport Bermuda Race with its great mix of history and tradition. “It’s one that yachtsmen and women aspire to. As one of the three classic offshore races in the world, along with the Fastnet Race and the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the Newport Bermuda Race can give you a mixture of anything. Sometimes you can get hit hard at the start and have a light wind finish into Bermuda and other times you can get it the other way around. This time it looks like we’re going to be a little lighter most of the way there.”

“Maverick is a stripped-out race boat, with no comforts whatsoever. Basically, we built this boat two years ago and the brief was to design the fastest 46-foot yacht in the world and they achieved that very well. We keep up with boats twice our size, which is almost unheard of, thanks to the side foils which give us a huge amount of righting moment while allowing us to remain very lightweight… sort of skimming across the water.”

Maverick will sail in the Open Division, for boats with experimental designs or equipment. Also at the upper end of the spectrum is Warrior, a Volvo Open 70, sailing in the Gibbs Hill Division, which includes elite professionals and cutting-edge technology.

The race can be tracked online at the link here

The list of Irish sailors competing is: 

Warrior  

USA60063

Volvo Open 70

Ben Lynch

Benekerry

Bermuda Oyster  

BER435

Oyster 435

Christian Pollard

Dublin

Black Pearl  

GER7007

Carkeek 47

James Carroll

Dublin

Bounty  

USA61266

Swan 66

Marcus Spillane

Fountainstown

Maverick  

GBR4945

Infiniti 46R DSS

Sean McCarter

Donegal

Published in Offshore

The 39th Middle Sea Race starts on the 20th October 2018. With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of this remarkable offshore race, the Royal Malta Yacht Club (RMYC) is anticipating its highest entry yet. Some 30 yachts from 14 countries have already registered, well ahead of the usual pace. The record fleet stands at 122, set in 2014, and the RMYC has ambitions to topple this number.

The first race in 1968 saw a fleet of eight yachts cross the start line. Both race and organizing club have come a long way since that time. “This is an important year for the Rolex Middle Sea Race and the Royal Malta Yacht Club”, says Commodore Godwin Zammit. “Both club and race have grown enormously in stature since 1968. We are now regularly attracting over 100 boats from all corners of the world. Our proven ability to host a globally representative fleet demonstrates the strength of the RMYC, the extraordinary challenge of the racecourse and the attraction of offshore racing in general.”

"The first race in 1968 saw a fleet of eight yachts cross the start line"

Wishing to celebrate the special birthday, the RMYC is planning a number of efforts aimed at showcasing the rich history of the race, including the boats and people that sailed them, and the charm of the event’s island home. Malta. “We aim to mark the occasion in an indelible fashion,” advises RMSR Organizing Committee member, Georges Bonello DuPuis. “Our first success has been to secure the attendance of Josian, the Swan 36 that won the first race skippered by our club president, John Ripard. Josian’s current Italian owner, Eugenio Alphandery, was enthusiastic to return her to the scene of her most famous victory.” Reuniting former owner Ripard and Josian on Marsamxett Harbour will surely be an emotional highlight of the event.

Coincidentally, Valletta is European Capital of Culture in 2018 and the Rolex Middle Sea Race will feature strongly in the calendar of events supporting this initiative. The Valletta 2018 mission nicely reflects an essential spirit of the race: “When you live on an island, the horizon always holds the promise of new and exciting connections to be made, while the shore draws you back home to a wealth of detail that’s just waiting to be explored.” A key feature of the Rolex Middle Sea Race has been its ability to capture the imagination and to draw crews back time and again to participate. Each race is different, each participation adds to the experience. George David, who has taken Line Honours five times and hold the current course record, is forthright in his appreciation. Shortly, after crossing the finish line in 2017 he remarked: “This is the best racecourse in the world. It’s already on our calendar for 2018.”

As usual, the RMYC is looking forward to welcoming the perennial mix of professional and Corinthian crews, those making a welcome return as well as those on their first appearance. Currently, the most spectacular entrant is Nikata, the JVNB 115, which at 35-metres will be the biggest boat ever to start the race. Josian and Swedish entrant, the J/111 Blur, at a mere 11-metres provide a striking contrast. Other entries of note include the German Maxi72 Momo and the double-hander, Mandalay, which boasts Austrian two-time Olympian and former Volvo Ocean Race skipper Andreas Hanakamp as one half of its two-man crew.

Published in Offshore

After five races (and three race wins) at the Les Voiles de St-Barth 2018 Regatta, Michael Cotter's Windfall from Dun Laoghaire was the winner of the Maxi two division earlier this month.

There was some close combat between Dutch Maxi Aragon and Windfall and at the start of the final race both boats had an equal number of points.

Cotter's Southern Wind 94 is a Carbon built Maxi

“A sense of déjà vu,” noted Olivier Douillard, tactician aboard the Marten 72 belonging to the Verder and Van Nieuwland famliies, who found himself in exactly the same situation as during the 2017 edition, and hoped that this time the game would be his to win.

No such luck. The victory ultimately went one more time to Royal St. George's Michael Cotter and his Windfall team.

Results are here

Published in Offshore

With just over 13 weeks to go to the start of the 2018 edition of the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht race, 37 boats have already taken advantage of the Early Bird entry rates writes W M Nixon. But the Early Bird offer closes this coming Friday, 30th March - if you’re interested in taking part in the history-making 20th Round Ireland, get your booking under way now here.

As it is, a quick scan of the current confirmed entries reveals a decidedly eclectic list of notable boats. Dun Laoghaire-Dingle 2017 runner-up, the ISORA all-conquering J/109 Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop, Pwllheli) is game for the complete circuit, while Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, another ISORA stalwart, is also going again.

The keenly-campaigned veteran Swan 65 Desperado of Cowes (Richard Loftus) is adding the Round Ireland to her list of battle honours for the second time, and the first signs of the Open 40s making a race of it (they find the Round Ireland suits them particularly well) is there with Ari Kaensaekoski’s Fuji.

Another veteran Swan, this time Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan, is doing the race for the first time, but she’s well known on the RORC circuit as sailing for Ireland, and was a notable performer at the front of the fleet in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017.

Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race 2017 winner Rockabill VI, Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80, is going again, but this time with 2016 Class Winner Mark Mansfield of Cork in the crew, while the veteran French Volvo 65 Libertalia is game for another go. And as for boats which are currently top of the rankings in Irish sailing, the sister-ship of “Sailor of the Year” Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam!, Brendan Coughlan’s recently-acquired YoYo, has also signed up.

Round Ireland 2018 Entries at March 27

303 Black Louis Mulloy
Andante Keith Miller
Arthur Logic John Tyrell Prue Walsh
Aurelia Chris Power Smith
Baraka Niall Dowling
Bellino Rob Craige
Desert Star Irish Offshore Sailing Ronan O Siochru
Desperado of Cowes Richard Loftus
Fireball Chris Clark
Forward Thinking Tony Martin
Fuji Ari Kaensaekoski
Fulmar Fever Robert Marchant
Hydra Henrik Bergesen
Jaasap Pasternak Nicholas
Jangada Richard Palmer
Laura Richard Stain
Libertalia Team Jolika, Jean Francois Levasseur
Lynx Clipper David O Connor
May Contain Nuts Kevin Rolfe
Maybird Darryl Hughes
Mojito Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox
Olympia's Tigress Susan Glenny
Patriot John Lubimir
Pegasus Of Northumberland Ross Hobson
Petasus Al Smith
Phosphorous II Mark Emerson
Platinum Blonde Paul Egan
Playing Around Ken Docherty
Pomeroy Swan Paul Kavanagh
Port of Galway Yannick Lermonner
Pyxis Kirsteen Donaldson
Rockabill VI Paul O'Higgins
Sherkin 2 Ronan O'Siochru
Tribal Liam Burke
Trilogic Hugo Karlsson-Smyth
Wild Spirit Paul Jackson
Yoyo Brendan Couglan

Published in Round Ireland

Britain's Ocean City, Plymouth, has won the bid to host the start of the next edition of The Transat in 2020, the first and oldest single-handed transatlantic race in history.

The iconic and historic port on the Devon coast, which has a rich history of staging prestigious professional sailing events, will host The Transat for the second time in succession, having welcomed the race at the start of the last edition in 2016.

Race owner and organiser OC Sport has confirmed a start date of the 10th May 2020 for The Transat. The race is the successor, for professional sailors, to the original solo race across the North Atlantic that was born as the OSTAR in 1960 and which featured legends like Blondie Hasler and Sir Francis Chichester.

Hervé Favre, Offshore Sailing Event Director at OC Sport, commented: "The Plymouth City Council bid was extremely strong and we are delighted to be starting the 15th edition of this iconic race from its historic home.

"In the last edition in 2016, Plymouth provided the ideal launching platform for the race. The world-class boats were right in the heart of the city, we received fantastic support from local businesses while attracting thousands of people to the free-to-enter public race village."

The 3,500-mile quadrennial race across the North Atlantic has a fearsome reputation and is regarded as one of the toughest professional solo ocean races. It is a challenge dominated by the progression of low pressure systems sweeping across the North Atlantic that produce the headwinds that define this classic race.

In 2016, Frenchman Armel Le Cleac'h took an impressive win in the IMOCA 60 class aboard Banque Populaire, in a time of 12 days, 2 hours, 28 minutes and 39 seconds. For Le Cleac'h, The Transat proved to be the ideal training ground for the non-stop round-the-world race, the Vendée Globe, which he went on to win later that year. "The Transat is difficult because it is the only race that crosses the North Atlantic in this way. So we are against the prevailing winds which makes the course demanding and difficult," he commented.

"It holds very good memories for me. In 2008, arriving second in the IMOCA was good and in 2016 it was my first solo victory in the IMOCA class. So it is important to me, it's a legendary race and a great race."

Commenting on Plymouth as a start city, Le Cleac'h continued: "The start from Plymouth was exceptional in 2016. The locals and visitors welcomed us warmly and we loved that they do so with great pleasure. There is a passion for boats there, the sea and everything marine related.

"The week in Plymouth is a great celebration and it motivates us for the race, all of us are driven by the enthusiasm of the locals. It is an ideal place for the start of this legendary Transatlantic race."

Councillor Glenn Jordan, Cabinet Member for Culture at Plymouth City Council, said: "Plymouth City Council is delighted to be working with OC Sport to host the start of the 15th Transat race in 2020. As Britain's Ocean City, Plymouth has a rich maritime history and is deeply connected with the sea. We are proud to have been the starting point for this race every year since its inception in 1960; it epitomises the spirit of adventure our city is famous for."

Charles Hackett, Chief Executive of Mayflower 400, said: "Plymouth is at the heart of the upcoming 400th global anniversary commemorations of the Mayflower journey in 2020, so it is fitting that we welcome the return of The Transat race, an endeavour of sailing the Atlantic which links the UK and the US, in the same year."

Racing classes invited to take part in The Transat 2020 edition include the breathtaking Ultime multihulls measuring anything from 51-feet and above, Class40 monohulls (40ft) and Multi50 multihulls (50ft). They will line up on the start in Plymouth Sound alongside the ocean's monohull thoroughbreds – the IMOCA 60s (60ft), the world's leading solo class as part of their official race calendar, that will go on to contest the Vendée Globe later that year.

Skippers competing in The Transat will also be guaranteed a place on the startline of the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe in 2022. The single-handed transatlantic race, which is also owned and organised by OC Sport, has an entry limit of 120 boats, and due to the huge demand, a full startline is expected.

The start in Plymouth will be preceded by an official Prologue from Brittany, giving sponsors, media and VIP guests the opportunity to join the solo sailors as they race across the English Channel to the start line.

The host city for the finish of the race and the prologue location will be confirmed at a later date.

Published in Offshore

It’s highly likely that a trial Olympic offshore racing event will be run in tandem with the 2020 Sailing Olympiad in Tokyo in 2020, and one proposal which seems to have traction is that a boat similar to the Figaro will be used, and raced two-handed by a mixed male-female crew writes W M Nixon.

Whatever shape the future Olympic offshore format takes, such a development is bound to move parts of the current world offshore racing scene towards a more formalized training structure for young sailors. And for offshore racing high-flying hopefuls of limited resources, it may ultimately offer the seemingly attractive prospect of funding becoming available though official sources.

Yet equally it will require commitment and a defined career path which could be a whole world away from the current varied scene in Ireland where young people – some of them surprisingly young – find a genuine enthusiasm for offshore racing happily fulfilled by crewing aboard a sailing school or family boat, or racing with skippers who know that a dedicated and talented young offshore sailor, recruited through the always busy sailing grapevine, can be a real asset, often with true skipper potential.

But how far does such talent want to go in pursuing offshore sport? When 20-year-old Erwan le Draoulec won the 2017 Minitransat by a significant margin last November, while his win wasn’t unexpected (even if it gave further proof that you don’t have to be through your mid-20s to have super-human stamina), his reaction was something of a surprise. He’d sailed the very wet little boat to the absolute limit, he’d done the job very well indeed, yet he’d no hesitation afterwards in saying that it was a very stressful and definitely not enjoyable way to cross the Atlantic, and that in the future some time, he would hope to make the crossing in a more thoughtful style which fully appreciated the very special qualities of the great ocean.

erwan le draoulec2Youngest-ever winner. 20-year-old Erwan le Draoulec at the finish of the Mini Transat, November 2017

Such an outcome, reflecting one result of the uniquely French approach to dedicated offshore programmes with a high-powered training structure though classes such as the Mini-Transat and the Figaro, tell us why Irish solo sailors such as Tom Dolan from Meath, and Joan Mulloy from Mayo, have concluded that the only way to advance their careers is to commit to the French system, and both now sail in the Figaro network through which Damian Foxall and David Kenefick also progressed.

But there’s an all-or-nothing element to that dedicated Gallic approach which inevitably involves living in France, and is at variance with the underlying Corinthian ethos in Irish sailing, with its wholesome friendly atmosphere, and the fact that we enjoy sailing with family and friends, and being based here.

It can be argued, of course, that if we’re going to produce sailors in any discipline who are going to achieve top level international success to Olympic level, then we have to produce athletes who are as tough-minded and self-reliant as they are talented and physically able, and have to accept that they should be prepared to go anywhere and everywhere to pursue their goals.

But not everyone necessarily aims that high, and it would be a very unhealthy state of affairs if they did. Certainly they wish to do well in their chosen branch of the sport, but it’s at a civilized level, and for these junior offshore racing aspirants, Ireland is a happy hunting ground.

Yet by the very nature of the offshore sport, you cannot have children’s and youth boats which would be the offshore equivalent of the Optimist or the International 420 - anyone who thinks the Mini Transats are kids’ boats clearly has never sailed one.

So in a variety of ways, active berths have to be found for younger people on grown-up boats, and some of these younger people are very young indeed. One of the stars of 2017 may have been 17-year-old Lorcan Tighe of Dun Laoghaire, who played a key role in the Irish National Sailing School’s class win with the J/109 Jedi in the Rolex Fastnet Race, for which he was made Sailor of the Month for September 2017. But he was already building on past experience – at the age of 16, he’d been bowman on Peter Hall’s Beneteau 34.7 Adelie in the Volvo Round Ireland 2016 from Wicklow.

adelie wicklow3Noel Butler (on helm) and Lorcan Tighe (then aged 16) on Peter Hall’s First 34.7 Adelie. Photo: David O'Brien/Afloat.ie

lorcan and ronan4Further recognition. Lorcan Tighe with National YC Commodore Ronan Beirne and the Commodore’s Commendation Award for his 2017 Fastnet Race performance

And as a result of highlighting his achievement, we were quickly informed that several younger sailors had done the round Ireland, with a name quickly mentioned being that of Susan Shanahan of the National YC who was actively offshore racing as crew for her father Liam – stalwart of ISORA, the Round Ireland and the Dingle race - from the age of 12, for in these races there’s no lower age limit, although full Parental or Guardian permission is of course required for those under 18.

At the other side of the country, the legendary Dillons – father and son Derek and Conor from Foynes – were and are a formidable force offshore in double-handed racing with their Dehler 34 The Big Deal, and Conor was making an impact at the age of 14, while another Shannon Estuary sailing family, the McGibneys of Tarbert – were introducing youth sailors to the offshore game from an early age.

Derek conor dillon5Shannon talent. Derek and Conor Dillon from Foynes provide a notable example of different generations racing offshore together.

In fact, the extraordinary range of family crews bringing “cradle sailors” along to take part in offshore races from a very young age put us into new territory. For at what age does a child aboard an offshore racer start graduating into an active crew member? It’s when you try to put a figure on it that you realise that mere chronological age is a very crude measure. Every young sailor is different, and someone who is already a natural at 14 can be a much more useful crew than an able-bodied but less experienced 20-year-old.

It’s probably in Cork that they know more about when cradle sailors develop into real offshore crew members and skipper material, with family sailing and racing being so much part of the fabric of life that it’s seen as something so natural that it’s scarcely worth any special comment. But for sailors from elsewhere, it really is impressive when you see a mighty sailing clan like the O’Learys of two or more generations putting in a campaign where seniority is no matter of natural respect on board – it’s how much of a useful input you make into the boat’s successful functioning that counts.

One noted skipper who brings a special dedication and insight to family involvement in offshore racing is Liam Coyne of Dun Laoghaire, who with Brian Flahive won the two-handed division and several classes in the Round Britain & Ireland Race of 2014 in the First 36.7 Lula Belle.

lulabelle rbi6Rough going. Lula Belle at the start of the Round Britain and Ireland Race 2014. Photo RORC/Rick Tomlinson

lulabelle isora7Gentler going. Katie Coyne aged 10 aboard Lula Belle during an ISORA Pwllheli-Dun Laoghaire Race. Photo: Liam Coyne

That was one mega-rugged 1,800 mile event for the two men. Yet in home waters, Liam’s approach is strongly family-oriented, and over the years he has used the ISORA programme to introduce his three kids – Billy now 13, Katie who is 11, and Isabel 8 – to offshore sailing, firstly through taking them along on delivery trips when very young indeed, and then in actual races.

Thus young Billy won the Douglas Award aged 11 for being the youngest competitor in the ISORA trio of races focused on the Isle of Man, and then last year at 12 he was the youngest competitor in the decidedly tough Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race, and saw it through to the finish.

lula belle fastnet8Shipmates. Billy and Liam Coyne put the Fastnet astern during the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race 2017

Being at mid-fleet, by the time they reached the Fastnet the weather was easing, and that gave them a sunlit father, son and Fastnet photo to cherish. But the best was yet to come, as the weather now changed completely for the better. For a ten-day return cruise to Dun Laoghaire from Dingle, the racing crew took off home overland, and Liam and Billy were joined on board by Katie and Isobel for the four of them to have a sunlit port-hopping idyll back home along an Irish coast looking it best.

Another seasoned and thoughtful observer of the way young people move up through Ireland’s offshore racing structures is Noel Butler. Originally a man of the west, his sports were surfing, rock-climbing and fishing, but there was so little surf around in the good summer of 1995 that he returned to sailing which he’d briefly tried a few times before at the Outdoor Centre at Killaloe on Lough Derg.

This time he was hooked, and in classic Butler style he went at it 100%, so much so that when the two-man Laser 2 was all the rage around the turn of the Millennium, he took it up with such dedication that he won the Laser 2 Worlds in 2003, making him Ireland’s Sailor of the Year 2003.

yellow brick9The ubiquitous Yellowbrick Tracker – the mirco-chip used in it was designed in Dublin by the company where top helmsman Noel Butler works.

That in turn gave him such a good reputation as a helmsman that he is never lacking in offers of berths at the driving end of all sorts of boats, and offshore racing has become his passion. He brings an analytical mind to it - after all, he works with the company in Dublin which designed the micro-chips which are at the heart of the Yellowbrick trackers – and his comments on racing offshore with younger people who have proven themselves in dinghies, but find much great fulfillment offshore on open water, are illuminating:

“Having watched them take the boat by the scruff of the neck and “send it” in big breeze and big seas off Donegal, I for one appreciate the skills they are developing. I didn’t come up through the official “junior sailing world” myself, and am starting to experience it now with my own two kids (aged 7 and 9) sailing Optimists in the programme at the National YC. That’s ultimately aimed towards inshore racing, moving up in boat size. But with that for my family, and with my own experience of seeing more senior juniors such as Lorcan Tighe, Alexander Rumball, Jemima Owens and Oisin Cullen move into the keelboat and offshore game, I see the pluses and minuses of the varied experience of different types of sailing.”

Adelie skellig10The ocean experience – Noel Butler at the helm of Adelie with Skellig Michael astern during the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016

This “varied experience” is regularly available in Ireland thanks to our tradition of family sailing, while organisations such as WIORA, SCORA and ICRA provide direction for young people looking to test the keelboat experience. But for full introduction to the genuine offshore scene, the Irish National Sailing School and Irish Offshore Sailing in Dun Laoghaire make a formidable contribution, while ISORA is in a league of its own.

kenneth rumball10aKenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire skippered the J/109 Jedi to the class win and victory in the Roger Justice Trophy in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. Many Irish offshore racing boats now have INSS “graduates” in their crews

The Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association is guided by Peter Ryan of Dun Laoghaire with such patient skill and success that it could be a template of how to do such things. His own modest approach to it is surely part of it all. Far from claiming to be an offshore racer from boyhood, he quips: “I was an old man of 20-22 when Liam Shanahan Senr dragged me out of the snooker room in the National YC to go offshore racing on his DB2s Lightning – Liam was his own unique and very effective press gang. I’ve been well and truly hooked on offshore racing ever since, and it’s a great encouragement to me that so many young people – some of them very young – are getting a taste for racing offshore thanks to ISORA”.

peter ryan11Peter Ryan of ISORA was “press-ganged into offshore racing by Liam Shanahan Senr”.

So there is a sort of informal junior training programme within contemporary offshore racing. It’s just not highly visible because there’s no such thing as a junior offshore racing boat. But doubtless as the years go on, the “programme” will become more developed, as it already is with the sailing schools.

That said, the present setup has considerable charm. It’s intensely personal, it’s friendship and family-based. But if offshore racing is brought within the Olympic circus, then a high profile part of it will acquire an entirely different status. It will become official. It will become easy for governments to recognise its existence. It will become inevitable that, for some sections of the sport, a strict training and qualification and grading system will come into being, making it ultimately a section of sailing developing for a new elite.

Irish offshore sailors will view that with mixed feelings. For there really is something special about the way the system – such as it is nowadays – works quietly and so well in its unobtrusively effective way.

Published in W M Nixon
Page 1 of 29

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