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Garavogue Takes the Lead in Saturday's Dublin Bay Twenty One Lady Helm Race

13th May 2024
Dublin Bay 21s Number 3 Naneen (blue) and Number 6 Estelle (yellow) in close company in the Dublin Bay Sailing Club Saturday, 11th May race
Dublin Bay 21s Number 3 Naneen (blue) and Number 6 Estelle (yellow) in close company in the Dublin Bay Sailing Club Saturday, 11th May race Credit: John Leahy

Dublin Bay on Saturday, 11th May, presented perfect sailing conditions with sunshine, easterly F3/ F4 winds, and a reasonably flat sea state. A full turnout for the Dublin Bay Twentyones with a couple of newcomers to the fleet taking their maiden trip aboard these beautiful classic boats. The high tide was 14.49 hrs; therefore, most of the race was with an ebb tide.

The Dublin Bay Sailing Club Race Officer ordained a G6 course (Rp, Sp, Bp, Ks, Lp, Xp,) black line hut start. This course provided a beat across the harbour mouth to Bullock, a reach out to East, a long run back to Saoirse before a short beat to Boyd, followed by a run to Merrion and a final beat back to finish leaving Turning to port on the way home.

In preparation for the upcoming WATH regatta, the DB21 committee designated this race as a lady helm event with Jane, Liz, and Jean, with Nikki and Darina sharing, accepting the challenge to take the helm.

All boats had time before the start to practice tacking, gybing and settling crew roles, which proved fruitful as, after the warning signal, all four boats were jostling for the optimum start. Naneen seemed to favour a laser-like trigger start as with a minute to go, she was stopped about four boat lengths short of the line. Geraldine, at the same time, was sailing into the line windward and closer to the shore of the stationary Naneen. Garavogue, sailing loosely parallel to the line tacked just behind Naneen and followed Geraldine into the line while Estelle started closer to the pin end in clear air. As the gun went, all four boats started cleanly with Garavogue closest to the Hut to windward of Geraldine, Estelle parallel further down the line with Naneen slightly behind, and to leeward of Geraldine.

A view from the Dublin Bay 21 race leader Garavogue on a run from DBSC East mark to Saoirse mark in the Dublin Bay Sailing Club Saturday, 11th May race Photo: Sean DoyleA view from the Dublin Bay 21 race leader Garavogue on a run from DBSC East mark to Saoirse mark in the Dublin Bay Sailing Club Saturday, 11th May race Photo: Sean Doyle

Garavogue capitalised on a good start position and, in excellent beating conditions, soon had a commanding position on the fleet. After crossing the harbour mouth, Estelle was first to tack into Scotsman Bay and was rounding the pier corner before Naneen, Geraldine, and finally Garavogue tacked to follow suit. At this stage of the race the smart money would have been on Estelle as she sailed deep into Scotsman to take advantage of the early inshore ebb tide. Geraldine seemed to be sailing quite free and falling onto Naneen’s line and, after a short tussle, passed Naneen to windward then seemed to find the optimum pointing angle to remain clear ahead to windward of Naneen and pulling steadily away. Garavogue remained windward of the fleet carefully watching how Estelle would fare deeper inshore.

Soon Estelle and Garavogue were approaching Battery mark on a parallel course to get to the Bullock mark lay line. Estelle was further inshore quite close to the 40ft swimmers’ area with Garavogue a little further out. As both tacked together Garavogue had a clear lead, albeit still not on lay line and both needed a short tack to make the rounding. Garavogue was first around Bullock and the other three arrived very close together soon after with Geraldine ahead of Naneen on starboard, who in turn pipped Estelle coming in on port tack at the mark.

The reach out to East was uneventful other than Geraldine made some ground on Garavogue, who sailed a low course, leaving Naneen and Estelle to their own private race behind. Rounding East mark, Garavogue immediately gybed to Port and sailed high to protect her position. This proved a good call as Geraldine was in full attacking mode and also took a high line challenging hard to overtake the leader. However, Garavogue had done enough to protect her lead and Geraldine soon settled back to the proper course on the long run to Saoirse. Naneen and Estelle remained close together and maintained a battle of wits for supremacy throughout the race.

Positions remained unchanged at Saoirse, Boyd and Merrion marks and Garavogue, having established a reasonable gap on Geraldine, tacked up to the finish passing Turning on the way and crossed the line to claim a well-deserved win over Geraldine in 2nd place. The private race between Estelle and Naneen however was far from over. Naneen had maintained a slight lead around the course and fought hard to protect her position right to the end. A tacking duel ensued from Turning to the finish and on the final tack to the line Naneen having had to dip Estelle in an earlier tack, had the inside track to windward and closer to the hut and believed that had secured 3rd with Estelle crossing the line closer to the red pin. However, DBSC results indicate reversed positions with Estelle securing the coveted 3rd place. A clear case that perseverance and tactics can pay off and we will leave it to the respective helms and skippers to debate the veracity of the standing result.

Final DBSC result (May 11th 2024)

  1. Garavogue
  2. Geraldine
  3. Estelle
  4. Naneen

Back ashore, while a number of the crew had to dash off early, the rest repaired to the bar where the race was re-run and dissected in equal measure. The general consensus was of a good race in excellent conditions. The lady helms were delighted overall; however, some expressed being very nervous beforehand and even during the race, which may have affected their performance. The initiative showcased some of the excellent latent talent within the class and the Twentyone Class through Sailors of Dublin Bay Twentyones embrace diversity and are keen to promote and encourage developing skills regardless of gender or ability.

Lastly, on a social note, there are imminent plans to spread the excellent après sail and social activity of the class to other clubs as the Twentyones draw membership across the waterfront. Details to be advised very shortly and is intended to allow class members of each club to showcase the special welcome and hospitality each has to offer.

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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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