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Irish Half Tonners Head for Classic Cup at Cowes

8th August 2022
The Dwyer family’s Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble from Cork is a past winner of the Classic Cup
The Dwyer family’s Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble from Cork is a past winner of the Classic Cup Credit: Afloat

At the end of this week, a convoy of four Irish Half-Tonners head for next week’s Half Ton Classic Cup.

The boats are Dave Cullen’s Checkmate XV, Jonny Swan’s Harmony, Dave Kelly and Patrick Boardman’s King One and the recently acquired Dwyer family’s Swuzzlebubble.

All of these boats have at some stage won the Half Ton Cup or Half Ton Classic Cup and with the event postponed for two years due to Covid, the competition should be fierce.

RORC is hosting the event with an expected fleet of over 20 boats participating.

Jonny Swan’s Half Tonner Harmony from Howth Yacht ClubJonny Swan’s Half Tonner Harmony from Howth Yacht Club Photo: Afloat

Racing includes classic Solent Round the Cans races, Windward Leeward and a long offshore that is normally Round the Island.

This year’s event welcomes a Norwegian team for the first time with a large fleet of over 20 boats rapidly growing in Hanko in Norway.

Dave Kelly and Patrick Boardman’s King OneDave Kelly and Patrick Boardman’s King One Photo: Bob Bateman

Form boats include all of the Irish boats with big modifications to Harmony. Checkmate XV is the current title holder, whilst Swuzzlebubble remains unbeaten when she has participated.

Dave Cullen’s Checkmate XV is the current Half Ton Classic Cup titleholderDave Cullen’s Checkmate XV is the current Half Ton Classic Cup title holder Photo: Afloat

King One suffered a marina fire, so the crew have been flat out to get this boat to the line with a well-practised crew that includes Cork's Nin and Rob O’Leary.

Apart from the heavily modified boats known as the Protos, there is also a sub-division for classic boats in original configuration whilst many argue that the real trophy is the “Half Ton Spirit” trophy which is awarded to the team who best demonstrates the camaraderie and spirit of this most friendly class.

Published in Half Tonners Team

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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.


The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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