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The Dublin Bay Twenty-Ones Are Coming Home: 30 July 2021, Dun Laoghaire Harbour 1700hrs

30th July 2021
At the heart of the harbour for 83 years - a Dublin Bay 21 under the original gaff rig, which was used from 1903 until 1964. The class then sailed under Bemuda rig until 1986, and will resume Dublin Bay activities in 2021 with reversion to a modified gaff rig
At the heart of the harbour for 83 years - a Dublin Bay 21 under the original gaff rig, which was used from 1903 until 1964. The class then sailed under Bemuda rig until 1986, and will resume Dublin Bay activities in 2021 with reversion to a modified gaff rig

The Dublin Bay 21 Footers are the oldest class of racing yachts of their kind in the world - the World’s Oldest Cruiser Racer Class. Designed in 1902 by the leading yacht designer, Alfred Mylne of Glasgow, for Dublin Bay Sailing Club, seven were built between 1903 and 1908 and all seven still survive.

Originally gaff-rigged with large topsails, the boats were converted to a Bermudan rig in 1964 and continued to race in Dublin Bay until 1986, by which time major structural restoration work was required. The owners agreed to have the boats restored to their original gaff rig by Tyrrells of Arklow. Five boats were transported to Arklow by road while Garavogue and Geraldine made their way under sail. Following the death of Jack Tyrrell in 1988 and the subsequent closure of the famous Shipyard, the fleet was laid up in a farmyard near Arklow until the present project began in 2017 with the formation of the Dublin Bay 21 Footer Class Association and the transfer of ownership of all boats to the Association.

The Association is committed to the revival of the class and now for the first time since 1986, the Class will participate in the DBSC racing programme of 2021. The boats will sail under the modified gaff rig designed by Alfred Mylne in 1918. For a generation born in the digital age, beguiled by novelty and speed, the Dublin Bay Twentyones are a reminder of how beautiful a true sailing boat can be. The boats will provide an opportunity for present day sailors to experience the sailing characteristics of a truly authentic classic yacht. The boats will carry a crew of 5 or 6.

Master boatbuilder Stephen Morris and his team in Kilrush in County Clare have produced an outstanding example of authentic wooden boat restoration. Using Alfred Mylne’s original drawings, supplemented by construction details provided by Naval Architect, Paul Spooner, the traditional skills of the shipwright have been combined with the latest technical knowledge in timber conservation and construction methods. The use of laminated beams and frames and epoxy resins has resulted in stiff, water tight, low maintenance, monocoque hulls, without nails or screws, which allows the application of durable two-pack polyurethane finishes. The original lead keels. iron tillers and fittings have been reused together, with some of the original greenheart and pitch pine timbers.

Hal Sisk gives a a pre-departure briefing on the quayside at Arklow on Friday morning, July 30 at 0800 hoursHal Sisk gives a a pre-departure briefing on the quayside at Arklow on Friday morning, July 30 at 0800 hours

The Twenty Ones underway and heading back to Dun Laoghaire Harbour The Dublin Bay Twenty One Naneen underway and heading back to Dun Laoghaire Harbour

The first three restored 21’s Number 3 Estelle, 4 Garavogue and 6 Naneen will sail from Arklow tomorrow (Friday 30th) July to arrive at Dun Laoghaire at 17.00 where they will be met by the Dublin Bay Sailing Club flag-ship Mac Lir to a gun salute. The arrival may be viewed from The East Pier Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and if conditions suit, the returned DB21s will lead a flotilla of classics on a circuit of Scotsman's Bay before entering Dun Laoghaire harbour for an official reception at the National Yacht Club

Naneen restored - she was the first of the Dublin Bay 21s to be brought back to life as part of the new project.Naneen restored - she was the first of the Dublin Bay 21s to be brought back to life as part of the new project.

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Dublin Bay 21s

An exciting new project to breathe life into six defunct 120-year-old Irish yachts that happen to be the oldest intact one-design keelboat class in the world has captured the imagination of sailors at Ireland's biggest sailing centre. The birthplace of the original Dublin Bay 21 class is getting ready to welcome home the six restored craft after 40 years thanks to an ambitious boat building project was completed on the Shannon Estuary that saved them from completely rotting away.

Dublin Bay 21 FAQs

The Dublin Bay 21 is a vintage one-design wooden yacht designed for sailing in Dublin Bay.

Seven were built between 1903 and 1906.

As of 2020, the yachts are 117 years old.

Alfred Mylne designed the seven yachts.

The total voting population in the Republic's inhabited islands is just over 2,600 people, according to the Department of Housing.

Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) commissioned the boat to encourage inexpensive one-design racing to recognise the success of the Water Wag one-design dinghy of 1887 and the Colleen keelboat class of 1897.

Estelle built by Hollwey, 1903; Garavogue built by Kelly, 1903; Innisfallen built by Hollwey, 1903.; Maureen built by Hollwey, 1903.; Oola built by Kelly, 1905; Naneen built by Clancy, 1905.

Overall length- 32'-6', Beam- 7'-6", Keel lead- 2 tons Sail area - 600sq.ft

The first race took place on 19 June 1903 in Dublin Bay.

They may be the oldest intact class of racing keelboat yacht in the world. Sailing together in a fleet, they are one of the loveliest sights to be seen on any sailing waters in the world, according to many Dublin Bay aficionados.

In 1964, some of the owners thought that the boats were outdated, and needed a new breath of fresh air. After extensive discussions between all the owners, the gaff rig and timber mast was abandoned in favour of a more fashionable Bermudan rig with an aluminium mast. Unfortunately, this rig put previously unseen loads on the hulls, resulting in some permanent damage.

The fleet was taken out of the water in 1986 after Hurricane Charlie ruined active Dublin Bay 21 fleet racing in August of that year. Two 21s sank in the storm, suffering the same fate as their sister ship Estelle four years earlier. The class then became defunct. In 1988, master shipwright Jack Tyrrell of Arklow inspected the fleet and considered the state of the hulls as vulnerable, describing them as 'still restorable even if some would need a virtual rebuild'. The fleet then lay rotting in a farmyard in Arklow until 2019 and the pioneering project of Dun Laoghaire sailors Fionan De Barra and Hal Sisk who decided to bring them back to their former glory.

Hurricane Charlie finally ruined active Dublin Bay 21 fleet racing in August 1986. Two 21s sank in the storm, suffering the same fate as a sister ship four years earlier; Estelle sank twice, once on her moorings and once in a near-tragic downwind capsize. Despite their collective salvage from the sea bed, the class decided the ancient boats should not be allowed suffer anymore. To avoid further deterioration and risk to the rare craft all seven 21s were put into storage in 1989 under the direction of the naval architect Jack Tyrrell at his yard in Arklow.

While two of the fleet, Garavogue and Geraldine sailed to their current home, the other five, in various states of disrepair, were carried the 50-odd miles to Arklow by road.

To revive the legendary Dublin Bay 21 class, the famous Mylne design of 1902-03. Hal Sisk and Fionan de Barra are developing ideas to retain the class's spirit while making the boats more appropriate to today's needs in Dun Laoghaire harbour, with its many other rival sailing attractions. The Dublin Bay 21-foot class's fate represents far more than the loss of a single class; it is bad news for the Bay's yachting heritage at large. Although Dún Laoghaire turned a blind eye to the plight of the oldest intact one-design keelboat fleet in the world for 30 years or more they are now fully restored.

The Dublin Bay 21 Restoration team includes Steve Morris, James Madigan, Hal Sisk, Fionan de Barra, Fintan Ryan and Dan Mill.

Retaining the pure Mylne-designed hull was essential, but the project has new laminated cold-moulded hulls which are being built inverted but will, when finished and upright, be fitted on the original ballast keels, thereby maintaining the boat’s continuity of existence, the presence of the true spirit of the ship.

It will be a gunter-rigged sloop. It was decided a simpler yet clearly vintage rig was needed for the time-constrained sailors of the 21st Century. So, far from bringing the original and almost-mythical gaff cutter rig with jackyard topsail back to life above a traditionally-constructed hull, the project is content to have an attractive gunter-rigged sloop – “American gaff” some would call it.

The first DB 21 to get the treatment was Naneen, originally built in 1905 by Clancy of Dun Laoghaire for T. Cosby Burrowes, a serial boat owner from Cavan.

On Dublin Bay. Dublin Bay Sailing Club granted a racing start for 2020 Tuesday evening racing starting in 2020, but it was deferred due to COVID-19.
Initially, two Dublin Bay 21s will race then three as the boat building project based in Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary completes the six-boat project.
The restored boats will be welcomed back to the Bay in a special DBSC gun salute from committee boat Mac Lir at the start of the season.
In a recollection for Afloat, well known Dun Laoghaire one-design sailor Roger Bannon said: "They were complete bitches of boats to sail, over-canvassed and fundamentally badly balanced. Their construction and design was also seriously flawed which meant that they constantly leaked and required endless expensive maintenance. They suffered from unbelievable lee helm which led to regular swamping's and indeed several sinkings.

©Afloat 2020

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