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Victory for Ross McDonald-Aoife English Team in 1720 Easterns at Howth

12th July 2021
High density labour-intensive sailing……the 1720s racing the first day of their BNRG Easterns 2021 in Saturday's sunshine at Howth
High density labour-intensive sailing……the 1720s racing the first day of their BNRG Easterns 2021 in Saturday's sunshine at Howth Credit: Annraoi Blaney

When the Royal Cork Yacht Club unveiled the fresh concept of the Tony Castro-designed 1720 Sportsboat back in 1994, one of the tongue-in-cheek suggestions was that finance in developing the class could be through some grant scheme for Job Creation, as it was envisaged that each of these 26ft boats would be raced by a crew of five, and this was something which could surely be monetised.

Thus it means that any club hosting an event for this currently regenerating class can expect a good turnout of hungry and thirsty enthusiasts even when there's a modest entry list. And with a healthy entry of 15 boats sweeping into Howth on Friday for their BNRG-sponsored Eastern Championship, the pandemic-modified HYC hospitality machine was delighted to find that around a hundred extra consumers were grafted on to a home customer base which is already increasing with every race as people adjust to the new possibilities.

BNRG (David Maguire) heading out of Howth Harbour on Saturday morning with all the promise of an idyllic day of sea breeze racing. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyBNRG (David Maguire) heading out of Howth Harbour on Saturday morning with all the promise of an idyllic day of sea breeze racing. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

In short, in addition to boats in club racing and the developing Fingal Series for cruiser-racers, it meant that in Saturday's sunshine the joint was jumping – in socially-distanced style, of course. And in all, for the 1720s - in addition to three boats from the host club - nine other clubs were represented. Their geographical spread went halfway round the coast of Ireland, starting from Skerries (David Love with Mini Apple), and finishing with Galway Bay (Aodhan FitzGerald with After Midnight).

Western entry – Aodhan FitzGerald and his crew from Galway Bay SC with After Midnight find that the "soft" east coast can serve up its own cliffs with features like the gannet-laden Stack at Ireland's Eye off Howth. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyWestern entry – Aodhan FitzGerald and his crew from Galway Bay SC with After Midnight find that the "soft" east coast can serve up its own cliffs with features like the gannet-laden Stack at Ireland's Eye off Howth. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

The breeze firming in to provide a neat start for an entry list that came from ten very diverse clubs. Photo: Annraoi Blaney   The breeze firming in to provide a neat start for an entry list that came from ten very diverse clubs. Photo: Annraoi Blaney  

It tells us much about the ports which are hitching themselves to the accelerating 1720 train that the other clubs were Royal Irish, Royal St George and Irish National SC from Dun Laoghaire, Arklow SC, Wexford Harbour Boat & Tennis Club, Waterford Harbour SC (Dunmore East), Royal Cork YC, and Baltimore SC, whose Rob O'Leary is the defending overall 1720 champion.

The two days of racing both provided easterly winds, but of very different type. Saturday's was a strongly sunlit-strengthened sea breeze of a sparkling type which we'd thought had almost become extinct for all the talk of global warming, whereas Sunday's was an eventually rain-bearing grey wind which showed that normal service had been resumed, but both days provided super racing nevertheless.

"Blue days at sea" – summertime for the 1720s off the coast of Fingal. Photo: Annraoi Blaney   "Blue days at sea" – summertime for the 1720s off the coast of Fingal. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Action stations! If the 1720s were provided with neat furlers for their jibs, it might lead to job losses in a vulnerable sector of the maritime workforce………Photo: Annraoi BlaneyAction stations! If the 1720s were provided with neat furlers for their jibs, it might lead to job losses in a vulnerable sector of the maritime workforce………Photo: Annraoi Blaney

And everything seemed to be going to plan with the first race, as the winner was the sponsor' own boat, BNRG sailed by David Maguire of Howth. But then for those following the leaderboard, a mystery of sorts emerged, as the remaining five races were won by some boat called Atara, registered as raced by the Mc Bearla clan under the Howth YC colours.

The battle lines are drawn – Atara emerging ahead of Wet & Ready. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyThe battle lines are drawn – Atara emerging ahead of Wet & Ready. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

We got Poirot on the job, and he came up with the info that McBearla is the Irish name for anyone called English, and the last time the name Atara figured in really big headlines in Irish sailing was when John Storey's Farr 43 of that name was overall winner for Ireland of the 1991 Sydney-Hobart Race, with promising young fellows like Harold Cudmore and Gordon Maguire on the strength.

The ancestral and direct links in the current 1720 class to that giddy time when Ireland also won the Southern Cross Series would take for ever to detail, but sufficient to say that the McBearlas on Atara are Ross McDonald and Aoife English on Rope Dock, and after they'd won the second race there was no stopping them.

Neck and neck for the new Easterns Champion Atara (aka Rope Dock) and Wet & Ready. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyNeck and neck for the new Easterns Champion Atara (aka Rope Dock) and Wet & Ready. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Dan O'Grady, a personal veteran of that 1991 Australia campaign, managed to keep ahead of Rob O'Leary for the second overall, but it was close enough with the Baltimore skipper comfortably third overall by the finish, and thereafter in the body of the fleet there was enough variety in the scorelines to suggest that the 1720s in their new wave are on a healthy learning curve.

Full details here

Published in 1720
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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