The Annual Conference of the Irish Cruiser Racer Association (ICRA), an absorbing all-day affair in Limerick this Saturday (March 4th), has an intriguing agenda writes W M Nixon. But for many sailors from all over Ireland and the other side of the Irish Sea, the high point of it all will be the announcement of the ICRA “Boat of the Year” selected by the ICRA judges.
We revive memories of the great year of 2016 by running our own informal poll - just click as you wish on this alphabetic list at the bottom of this story to see whose achievements rise up the ranking. We can only say that that the wealth of choice speaks highly of the great good health and re-growing popularity of “waterborne truck racing”
QUARTER TONNER Anchor Challenge – Paul Gibbons from Royal Cork Yacht Club. Photo: Bob Bateman
Anchor Challenge: Paul Gibbon’s classic Quarter Tonner from Crosshaven was good on enthusiasm, and good on performance, her top line being the overall win in the IRC Europeans at Crosshaven in July, which he plans to defend at Marseilles this summer.
KER39 Antix – Anthony O'Leary from Royal Cork Yacht Club. Photo: Paul Wyeth
Antix:Anthony O’Leary’s Fast Forty+ may not have had her most successful season ever in 2016, but many crews would give their eye teeth to have a record as good, topped with the Class O win in the IRC Europeans in Cork Harbour in July.
Bam!: With the complexities of the RORC Caribbean 2017 still fresh upon us, we realize just how good was Conor Fogerty’s Class win in 2016 in this demanding maze of a race around the islands with his Sunfast 3600 Bam!. And on top of that, it was all just part of an extraordinary season with thousands and thousands of miles of sailing and racing
HALF TONNER Checkmate XV – David Cullen from Howth Yacht Club. Photo: Afloat.ie
Checkmate XV: David Cullen’s beautifully-presented classic Half Tonner Checkmate XV found form to rocket to the top in the ICRA Nats at his home port of Howth in June in a very convincing style. Dave also skippered the J/109 Storm to a class win in the Volvo Round Ireland as Euro Carparks, but maybe that should count as a success for the Kelly family’s Storm, which also won the J/109 Nationals
QUARTER TONNER Cartoon – Ken Lawless & Sybil McCormack from the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Photo: Afloat.ie
Cartoon V: Ken Lawless & Sybil McCormack (RIYC) with their characterful Quarter Tonner came sweeping through the IRC Nationals to win their class in style.
DUBOIS 37 Dark Angel – Tony Ackland from Swansea. Photo: Bob Bateman
Dark Angel: Tony Ackland from Swansea turned all heads with his handsome boat which in a previous life was well known in both Cork Harbour and Galway. There’s more than just looks to the Angel – she won IRC 1 in the Europeans at Crosshaven.
HALF TONNER Harmony – Jonny Swan from Howth Yacht Club. Photo: Bob Bateman
Harmony: Jonny Swan’s wooden-built classic Half Tonner Harmony benefitted from an under-deck laminated fore-and-aft girder installed by Dougal McMahon of Belmont in County Offaly literally to provide a bit of backbone, and it worked a treat. In many victories, Harmony won IRC 3 in the Europeans at Cork.
J24 Ireland's Eye Kilcullen – HYC under-25s from Howth Yacht Club
Ireland’s Eye Kilcullen: The HYC nippers – aka the under-25s – in the club-backed J/24 showed there’s still life in this classic Johnstone design. In open events they took second place in Class 4 at Cork Week and the IRC Europeans, they also took third overall in the J/24 Under 25 Europeans. And in the class in Ireland they won the Nationals (7 wins in 7 races), the Northerns, the Southerns, and the Westerns.
KER36 Jump Juice - Conor Phelan from Royal Cork Yacht Club. Photo: Bob Bateman
Jump Juice: Like good wine, Conor Phelan’s Ker 36 from Cork improves with age. They won the RORC Easter Challenge in ferocious weather in the Solent overall, and they won Class O in convincing style at the ICRA Nats in June.
J109 Joker 2 - John Maybury from the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Photo: Afloat.ie
Joker 2: If you wanted a demonstration of the J/109’s all round ability, John Maybury’s Joker 2 provided it in 2016. She recorded a back-to-back win in the ICRA Nats – the only boat to do so in 2015-2016 – and under the skippering of Commandant Barry Byrne, she was the first winner of the new inter-forces Beaufort Cup including winning its Fastnet Race. Same boat, but completely different crews – Joker 2 makes a special claim for top boat of the year
E–BOAT OctopussE - Pat O’Neill from Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club. Photo: Afloat.ie
OctopussE: The Julian Everitt-designed E Boat is a blast from the past, a miniature offshore racer in which the vertical keel can be retracted completely into the hull. The fleet at Clontarf deserve every credit for their multiple use, including club racing and canal cruising. But it is Pat O’Neill who carries it all through with competition in the ICRA Nats, and he won IRC 4.
JPK 10.80 Rockabill – Paul O'Higgins from the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Photo: Afloat.ie
Rockabill VI: It takes courage to start racing in a boat with a massive international success record like the JPK 10.80, but Paul O’Higgins was game for the challenge when he took Rockabill VI fresh out of the wrappings to do the Volvo Round Ireland Race in June, and came within an ace of a class win. He then re-surfaced for the IRC Europeans at Cork in July – and won IRC 2.
With two races completed at the end of Day 1, only 7 points separate the top 6 teams at the Coutts Quarter Ton Cup . Rob Gray's 'Aquila' holds the overall lead with a total five points, tied with Louise Morton's 'Espada' in second. Rounding out the top three just one point adrift of 'Espada' is Rickard Melander's 'Alice II', who holds a 4 point advantage over Cork's George Kenefick's fourth placed 'Tiger'. Fifth at the end of Day 1 is 'Cote' owned by Darren Marston & Ollie Ophaus.
Day 1 of the Cup dawned bright and clear but with an almost total absence of the most necessary ingredient for a sailing regatta - wind. With the glassy conditions meaning that there was very little chance of racing getting away at the scheduled 10.30 start time, Principal Race Officer Robert Lamb sensibly held the fleet ashore whilst he and his race team headed off onto the Solent in search of some sort of usable pressure. Having persevered in their quest for some several hours, Lamb and his team were eventually rewarded for their patience at around 14.00, when a pleasant 10 knot south westerly breeze materialised, enabling the eager fleet to finally put to sea for what turned out to be two excellent and closely fought races.
Tiger - Lying fourth in Cowes. Photo: Bob Bateman
Despite the wide range of sizes and designs making up the 30 boat fleet, the racing could hardly have been closer both on the water and on handicap, with every startline and mark rounding fiercely contested throughout the day. In Race 1, Louise Morton's 'Espada', (helmed at this event by Colette Blair standing in for the injured Morton) turned in a line honours performance in the first race, which was good enough to also give 'Espada' a corrected time race win by just under a minute. Second in that race was last year's Quarter Ton Cup winner 'Cote' owned by Darren Marston & Ollie Ophaus, who edged Sweden's Rickard Melander on 'Alice II' into third place by just 16 seconds on corrected time. Fourth was Rob Gray's 'Aguila', ahead of Ireland's Eamonn Rohan on Anchor Challenge.
Race 2 saw a compelling three-way battle for line honours between 'Aguila', 'Alice II' and George Kenefick's Irish entry 'Tiger'. 'Aguila' eventually prevailed to take the gun and a narrow 8 second corrected time victory over 'Tiger' in second and 'Alice II' in third. 'Espada' rounded out a solid day with a fourth place ahead of Ian Southworth's 'Whiskers'.
With two races completed at the end of Day 1, only 7 points separate the top 6 teams. Rob Gray's 'Aquila' holds the overall lead with a total five points, tied with Louise Morton's 'Espada' in second. Rounding out the top three just one point adrift of 'Espada' is Rickard Melander's 'Alice II', who holds a 4 point advantage over George Kenefick's fourth placed 'Tiger'. Fifth at the end of Day 1 is 'Cote' owned by Darren Marston & Ollie Ophaus.
As the fleet returned to the dock this evening, the smiles on the faces of the sailors was a clear indication of a fun day of Quarter Tonner racing. Having travelled from Russia to compete in Cowes this week with his French Quarter Tonner 'Bullit', Dmitry Borodin said that he had thoroughly enjoyed his first experience of racing in England. "To have the chance to sail here in Cowes is a real pleasure. There are so many fantastic boats and just being here in a town with this sort of sailing heritage is fantastic. On the water I think we have much to learn but we are enjoying our first Quarter Ton Cup and we will take the message back home with us. Hopefully in years to come there will be more Russian boats coming to sail in this regatta."
Colette Blair from 'Espada' declared herself happy with her team's first day performance. "We are fortunate that Espada performs well in all conditions, but today we seemed to be going well and we are pleased with the way we sailed." Blair also commented that Espada's only non-female crew member, mainsheet trimmer Stuart Childerley, had coped well with being the only man on-board. "It's great to sail with Stuart although I think he found the general conversation onboard today rather different to what he is used to."
Anchor Challenge's Eamonn Rohan, a first timer at the Quarter Ton Cup, had also clearly enjoyed his day on the water but was quick to pay tribute to the quality of the fleet. "This is the toughest Quarter Ton racing that we have done since we bought the boat. There are so many really fast boats and competitive crews sailing here this week, it's been a bit of an eye opener. We are having fun though and looking forward to tomorrow's racing."
Despite lying in last place overall Richard Johnson & Sarah Lyle on 'Hannah J' were still amongst the most enthusiastic owners checking the results in the clubhouse after racing. "We had a great day out on the water and we are really pleased not to have finished last in the second race! Can you tell this is our first time? What we are really hoping for is an overall wooden spoon prize!" commented Sarah.
Racing at the 2011 Quarter Ton Cup continues tomorrow Tuesday 12 July with three more races scheduled. The regatta concludes on Wednesday 13 July.
A retro class of sailing boats will give a shot in the arm to the two major south-coast regattas this June. Although its heyday was 30 years ago, the revitalised Quarter Ton class in Britain and Ireland, is experiencing a new lease of life.
The budget-minded class has been back building numbers steadily since 2001 when Peter Morton revived the class on the south coast of England. Now over 40 boats compete in Britain and up to 10 will visit Cork this summer after a successful trial here two years ago.
From June 17th they'll go head to head with a number of hot Irish campaigns that have emerged in the last 12 months, including the host port's "Tiger" (O'Brien, Kenefick and Kenefick), Eamon Rohan's recently refurbished Anchor Challenge and Dún Laoghaire's Supernova, skippered by Ken Lawless.
The crew of Anchor Challenge Complete a gybe. Photo: Bob Bateman
For this year's event, some of these dated 24-26 footers are being pulled from hedgerows and fields rather than building new ones.
Last raced in the 1980s, others are getting the full make-over and have been extensively remodelled for today's IRC handicap rule.
"Budget sailing with five friends, that's the ethos", claims Kinsale skipper Ian Travers about the style of the passe class.
The current fleet contains boats from €6,000 to €30,000, the more expensive boats having extensive optimisation and new sail plans.
It's well within the rules to alter rudders and keels but hull shapes must stay original.
To qualify to race in the Quarter Ton cup, a boat must fall within the old IOR rule or be a production boat derivative. This means many mainstream class-three craft such as Farr 727s, GK24s, Starflash 26s and Boleros all qualify.
Travers reckons therefore a potential Irish fleet could reach 50 boats, if enough owners showed interest.
One boat of particular interest in June will be "Black Fun" a fully refurbished and IRC optimised 1977 Laurie Davidson- designed Quarter Tonner.
Back then she was the top Quarter Tonner in New Zealand but for financial reasons did not make the journey to Finland to compete in the Quarter Ton Cup that year. Now, 34 years later, the current owners are shipping her from New Zealand to compete in this year's cup in Cowes in July but beforehand will compete in both Irish regattas as warm-ups.
And in further good news for the ICRA event a west coast cruiser fleet have confirmed that at least 15 boats will be entering the national championships.
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.