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A new exhibition of classic racing boat paintings by Afloat.ie reader James Gilna opens today (Wednesday 18 September) at the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire.

And the artist himself will be in attendance to discuss the works included in The Windward Mark from 5.30pm this Friday 20 September as part of Culture Night activities nationwide.

Paintings in the exhibition, which runs until Sunday 20 October, feature classic sailboats such as the Dublin Bay 21s and Howth 17s racing at Kingstown Harbour and in various locations around the Irish Sea.

A maritime artist based in Dublin, James Gilna is an alumnus of Dun Laoghaire School of Art and Design and the National College of Art and Design. He also sails and races Erica, his classic gaff rigged boat which was designed in 1897.

Earlier this year, Gilna tipped us to the auction of a painting by renowned maritime artist Montague Dawson of a boat supposedly racing on Lough Derg.

The events depicted in the painting were subsequently questioned by a Lough Derg yachting historian, who raised a number of points where Dawson may have taken artistic licence with his work.

Published in Dublin Bay

A painting by Montague Dawson recently sold at auction may not depict an amateur sailing race on Lough Derg as claimed, according to one yachting historian.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the painting titled ‘Racing for the Corinthian Challenge Cup on Lough Derg’, by the renowned maritime artist, fetched more than €87,000 in the Marine Sale at Bonhams in London last Wednesday (1 May).

The auctioneers confess that “it has not yet been possible to identify the specific race and those yachts depicted”.

But that could be because the race never happened, an expert on Lough Derg has suggested.

In correspondence seen by Afloat.ie, Vincent Delany — a member of the Association of Yachting Historians, author of a definitive history of Lough Derg’s yacht clubs, and a regular contributor to Afloat.ie — identified a number of reasons why he believes the painting takes artistic licence with its title.

Among them are the sail numbers, when Lough Derg boats used house flags; the size of the boats depicted, when there were no six-metre yachts on the lough; and the background, which is “not reflective of the hills of Co Tipperary, or of Cos Clare or Galway or the eastern shorelines of Lough Derg”.

Delany also posits that the quality of the lighting in the painting is more suggestive of the south of England than the lakes of the Shannon.

Afloat.ie awaits Bonhams’ response to Delany’s questions.

Published in News Update

A painting by a renowned maritime artist of yachts racing on Lough Derg has fetched more than €87,000 at auction.

Afloat.ie reader James Gilna tipped us to the sale of ‘Racing for the Corinthian Challenge Cup on Lough Derg’ by Montague Dawson, which was auctioned last Wednesday 1 May at Bonhams in Knightsbridge, London.

There is some mystery surrounding the painting, which had been in a private collection since its original sale in 1984, as according to Bonhams “it has not yet been possible to identify the specific race and those yachts depicted”.

But regardless, the “spirited” work will surely bring much enjoyment to its new owner as one of the more lively examples of the famed maritime painter, whose patrons included the British royal family and two US presidents among many others.

Published in News Update

A series of watercolour illustrations and interviews have captured the importance of the ocean to coastal communities in Ireland and Wales as part of the EU-funded BlueFish Project.

Sharon Sugrue, scientific and technical officer at the Marine Institute, and Galway’s urban sketcher Róisín Curé visited coastal communities in Ireland and Wales that border the Irish and Celtic Seas.

They met with people from a broad spectrum of marine activities including fishing, aquaculture, leisure, transport, tourism and marine renewable energy.

“A key aspect of the project was speaking with people living and working in coastal communities, and gathering their opinions about climate change and learning about how it might affect their livelihoods,” Sugrue said.

“Along with interviewing people and documenting their daily interactions with the sea, the medium of art was also used to record their activities. This was a unique opportunity to talk directly to coastal communities and capture their perspectives through art.”

Róisin Curé produced a series of watercolour illustrations that captured snapshots of these coastal communities and people’s daily lives.

The results of the interviews and art, through watercolour illustrations, created an accessible way for the public to understand the importance the ocean has on livelihoods in coastal communities.

By engaging with people and industries dependant on the sea, the information gathered highlighted how they benefit from the ocean, their thoughts on climate change, and particularly how it was going to affect their lives and businesses.

Comments made by fishermen stated that without the ocean, they wouldn’t have a living, as it’s their only source of income in their rural parts of Ireland.

“Many of the stories reaffirmed the importance of the age-old relationship between people and the sea, noting that the sea is the life-blood which sustains these communities,” Sugrue said.

“The general consensus in both Ireland and Wales coastal communities was that climate change is happening. There was an acknowledgment and a realisation amongst the people interviewed that there was a real looming threat to their livelihoods.”

Many people commented on how they were seeing changes to their climate in their local communications. A local businessman from Anglesey said: “In the 38 years I’ve been working here, the road would have flooded twice a year. Now it floods much more often.”

Curé said: “I felt privileged to sketch, at close quarters, people whose ingenuity has turned a potentially hostile ocean into a source of income. I hope that the same ingenuity will provide the answers to the challenges we’re facing with the effects of climate change.”

In August 2018, the ports of Dingle in Co Kerry, Baltimore in Co Cork, Kilmore Quay in Co Wexford and Howth in Co Dublin were visited and fishermen, restaurateurs, shellfish producers, operators in the tourism sector and seafarers were interviewed.

The Welsh coastal communities were visited in October and included Anglesey, Bangor, Pwllheli, New Quay, Milford Haven and Pembrokeshire.

Sugrue added: “This project has given me the opportunity to engage with those living and working in coastal communities in a personal and hands on way.

“Growing up by the sea and being part of a family business in aquaculture, I felt an affinity with the people interviewed. It also brought home to me the effect that climate change could have in a ‘real sense’ showing how these effects could ripple through these communities.”

Linking science and art as a mechanism to convey the importance of the ocean to coastal communities and the potential impacts of climate change on these communities will continue throughout 2019, where the project will feature at maritime festivals in Ireland and Wales and continue the dialogue with these coastal communities.

The BlueFish Project is a partnership between six organisations in Ireland and Wales including the Marine Institute, University College Cork, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Bangor University, Aberystwyth University and Swansea University.

The marine science research project is funded by the Ireland Wales 2014-2020 European Territorial Co-operation (ETC) Programme. The purpose of this maritime programme is to connect organisations, businesses and communities on the West coast of Wales with the South- East coast of Ireland.

Through engagement with coastal communities and art, the BlueFish Project, launched in September 2017, aims to develop knowledge and understanding of the marine resources and the potential impacts of climate change on the Irish and Celtic Sea ecosystem.

To find out more about the BlueFish Project, visit BlueFishProject.com

Published in Coastal Notes

#MarineScience - As many as 12 artists, writers and musicians from Ireland and Europe have the opportunity to join expeditions on the research vessel RV Celtic Explorer and to work with marine scientists as part of an interdisciplinary art project for radio broadcast. 

The three-year AerialSparks project will explore the potential of radio communication as a means to rethink our ocean wilderness as one of the last remaining unknowns.

AerialSparks has been created by artist Louise Manifold for Galway’s European Capital of Culture programme in 2020. Inspired by the concept of traditional broadcasting and the use of sonar and other technology for data collection, the project will result in a series of art works for radio. 

Manifold, who previously worked with Galway schoolchildren on marine science and art projects, has commissioned artists from Ireland and Europe to develop new work based on their experiences of spending time at sea on research surveys carried out by the Marine Institute's research vessel, RV Celtic Explorer.

The Galway-born conceptual artist, currently on residency in Berlin, is keen to tap into the connections between radio as a communication and navigation tool, and discover how radio can make spaces visible to audiences.

“While at sea on the Explorer last year, I was extremely mindful of how radio can be listened to in solitude, yet bring people together providing a sense of togetherness,” she said. “It is amazing to think how early radio technology must have felt for many people bridging the distance of the ocean and bringing people together. Recognising the importance of technology, it continues to play a big part in how we understand the influences of the ocean.”

Taking part in the project are renowned artists David Stalling, Kennedy Brown, Carol Anne Connelly and Ailís Ní Riain, who will each spend up to two weeks at sea on the RV Celtic Explorer during scientific expeditions.

One of the surveys, overseen by Prof Andy Wheeler from UCC, includes monitoring deep-water coldwater corals reefs off the continental shelf, exploring the processes involved in understanding the coral habitats and sensitivity to climate change and human impacts. 

The artists will have the opportunity to record data where advanced robotic technology and 3D visualisation tools will be used on the ROV Holland I at depths of 3,000m under the water.

Ireland’s offshore territory is 10 times the size of our land area, and marine research projects involving new technology help us learn more about the land under the sea, its geology and processes and how this impacts our lives.

Artists will also get to work with Prof Sergei Lebedev from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (Dias), where research is being conducted looking at offshore earthquakes in the deepest parts of Ireland’s ocean. 

With scientific equipment being deployed for the first time from the RV Celtic Explorer, including 18 ocean-bottom seismometers and an array of acoustic sensors, the survey will explore marine activity that can trigger undersea landslides.

Hannah Kiely, chief executive of Galway 2020, said of the project: “We are very excited about the waves of possibilities that the collaboration between arts and science presents particularly given the project’s focus on histories of the ocean voyage, maritime radio communication and how this might be felt and understood in a digital age. With our aim to be the first truly Virtual European Capital of Culture, digital is at the heart of our programme for Galway 2020.”

The ocean covers over 70 percent of the planet’s surface and with the advancement of marine technology, new discoveries are being made every day. 

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan added: “Aerial Sparks is an innovative opportunity for artists and marine scientists to learn new ways to connect and engage with the wider community. 

“We are learning more about the ocean including new habitats being explored for the first time, new species being discovered, as well as the effects of climate change and understanding the impacts humans are having on the ocean.

“Therefore, increasing our awareness and narrative about the ocean is extremely important. Using the concept of sound and the sea is a unique way of showing how both the arts and sciences highlight the importance of exploration and curiosity.”

The Marine Institute is also hosting a series of lunchtime talks at its Galway headquarters for scientists, giving them the opportunity to meet artists working on the project, and to be introduced to their ideas, processes and future work for AerialSparks. For further information contact the research operations office at the Marine Institute.

AerialSparks is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland Project Awards, Galway 2020 and the Marine Institute.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Build Your Own Unknown, a marine science and art project by fourth-class pupils at Cregmore National School in Co Galway, has been shortlisted for the Allianz Business to Arts Awards.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Cregmore pupils worked with artist Louise Manifold to produce their installation and short film, using images and footage from the ROV Holland I for inspiration in recreating the discovery of the Moytirra deep-sea hydrothermal vents in 2011.

The project — which places art, marine science and technology in the heart of the classroom — also involved TULCA in partnership with the Marine Institute’s Explorers Education Programme and marine scientist Dr Andy Wheeler from UCC.

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan congratulated the team on their achievement and wished them luck for awards night.

“One of the greatest outcomes of the Build Your Own Unknown project was being able to provide an opportunity for artists, marine scientists and educators to work together to help engage and increase children, teachers and the wider community’s awareness about the importance of our ocean,” said Dr Heffernan.

The Allianz Business to Arts Awards recognise and champion the spirit of collaboration between businesses, artists and arts organisations that develop creative partnerships; bringing the arts and artists into mutually beneficial relationships across society.

The winners of this year’s Allianz Business to Arts Awards will be announced later this evening (Monday 4 September).

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Fourth-class pupils from Cregmore National School in Co Galway are creating a marine science and art installation and short film with artist Louise Manifold that re-enacts the 2011 discovery of the Moytirra deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

Build Your Own Unknown sees the school children use images and footage from the ROV Holland I for inspiration to recreate the discovery of the gigantic rock formations, ‘smoking’ lava vents over 10m high, and areas teeming with unusual species new to science at the Moytirra vent field in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, some 3km below the surface north of the Azores.

Louise Manifold, the local artist leading the project, said: "As an artist I have always been fascinated by relationship between science and cinema, where often our connections to ocean is formed through our childhood imagination, from sci-fi films to childhood games and mythical stories.

“Build Your Own Unknown is not only about understanding our connections to the ocean, but it is about valuing human curiosity, and I am really enjoying the opportunity to work with the pupils of Cregmore to make an amazing piece of work that celebrates this."

Supported through the Marine Institute's Explorers Education Programme and the Tulca OFFshore programme, the marine science/art collaboration is welcomed by Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan.

"This is an innovative opportunity for artists, marine scientists and educators to engage and increase our awareness about the value, opportunities and societal benefits that the ocean provides us,” he said.

"Rediscovering the mystery of the ocean through the eyes of a scientist, the children have been given the opportunity to work with the Institute and Dr Andy Wheeler from UCC, who was the chief scientist on the research vessel RV Celtic Explorer, that had explored and aptly named Moytirra vents after a mythological Irish battlefield meaning plain of pillars.”

Build Your Own Unknown will be on show at SeaFest 2017, Ireland’s national maritime festival from 30 June to 2 July, which will promote the importance of ocean exploration as well as engage the wider community through visual arts.

The project will also include the development of cross-curricular education lesson plans and resources that teachers will be able to use for their own art-science project module. These will be available later this year at www.explorers.ie.

Published in Marine Science

#InlandWaters - Waterways Ireland is seeking contributions from the public on what they think best fulfils the theme 'Waterways Heritage'.

Participants of all ages are invited to enter the Heritage Art/Photographic Competition to be in with a chance to win an iPad Air.

Heritage of the inland waterways can include monuments, archaeological objects, heritage objects, architectural heritage, flora, fauna, wildlife habitats, landscapes and geology. 

Entries should be of the waterways under the jurisdiction of Waterways Ireland, which include the Shannon Navigation, Erne System and Shannon-Erne Waterway; the Lower Bann Navigation; the Barrow Navigation; the Royal and Grand Canals; and the Ulster Canal (Upper Lough Erne to Clones).

The judges will select an entry (photograph, painting, sculpture, etc) which best captures the heritage of the inland waterways. 

Entries will be divided into two categories: 18 years and over and under 18s. A prize of an iPad Air tablet will be awarded to the winner of each category. 

Take the summer to prepare your entry and submit before the closing date for the competition, 30 September 2015. Terms and Conditions apply and details are included in the entry form HERE.

For further information and competition rules contact Sabine Browne of Waterways Ireland at 061 922 141 or [email protected]

Published in Inland Waterways

#iris – It has been said that keeping a boat-owning partnership intact is much more difficult than maintaining a marriage in a healthy state. Thus for most of us with the boat-owning vocation, sole ownership is the only way to go. But for others, in order to defray costs, increase boat size, and maybe leave more personal time free to pursue other interests, the ambitions can best be realised through one of a wide variety of partnerships and syndicates.

These can go through an extensive range, starting at one extreme with what amounts to time-sharing, with the large number of owners meeting (if they meet at all) only once a year for a sort of Annual General Meeting. Other possible setups can mutate through various arrangements where there is considerable overlap between the boat uses by the different owners, right through to the other extreme of total partnership where all owners sail together as often as is possible.

In some cases, the additional social glue of special shared interests is needed to give the partnership that essential extra vitality. There's nothing new in this. W M Nixon takes a look back a hundred years and more to a boat-owning group whose shared interest in art kept a 60ft ketch on a regular cruising programme around Dublin Bay and the nearby coastlines.

The 60ft gaff ketch Iris had a chequered career. She started life at the peak of the Victorian era in the 19th Century as a naval pinnace serving Dublin Bay, and she was presumably driven by steam. At the time, Dun Laoghaire – then known as Kingstown – was becoming the height of fashion as a naval port of call in the summer, made even more so by its convenient access to the centres of power in Dublin, and its strategically useful direct rail connection – pierhead to pierhead – to the main Royal Navy base in Ireland at Cobh on Cork Harbour.

However, as Kingstown had initially been planned solely as a harbour of refuge – an asylum harbor - for ships in distress in onshore gales, with the actual spur to its construction (starting in 1817) being the wrecking of a British troopship with huge loss of life at Seapoint on the south shore of Dublin Bay, the plans had included no provision for convenient alongside berthing for ships.

Indeed, you get the impression that the original underlying thinking was that there should be as little social contact as possible between ships sheltering in the new harbour and any inhabitants of its nearby undeveloped shore. But the rapid if somewhat chaotic growth of the makings of a new harbourside town, plus the advent of more rapid access from Dublin with the coming of the railway in 1834, soon meant that the top brass expected to be able to get off and on their ships in the harbour in style and comfort, and their Lordships of the Admiralty did not stint in providing large pinnaces for them to do so. When these pinnaces were replaced in due course by even more luxurious vessels, those shrewd amateur sailors who could visualise the older boats' potential as re-cycled government surplus found themselves looking at a bargain.

The Iris was originally built with lifeboat-style construction of double-diagonal hardwood planking, which was quite advanced technology for the time. For the can-do boatbuilders of the late 19th Century, converting such totally purpose-built craft into some sort of a yacht was all part of a day's work. Another similarly-built if smaller and different-shaped vessel, Erskine Childers' Vixen on which the Dulcibella of The Riddle of the Sands fame was based, was formerly an RNLI lifeboat with the standard lifeboat canoe stern. She was made more yacht-like by the addition of a staging aft to compensate for the absence of deck space just where you most need it, while underneath this new permanent staging, additional supporting planking was faired into the hull and – hey presto – you've a yacht-like counter stern.

Vixen also had a massive centre-plate complete with its huge casing, and carried more than three tons of internal iron ballast, all of which left little enough space for living aboard during the long and often rough cruise through the Friesian Islands which provided much of the on-the-ground material – and we can mean that in every sense – on which The Riddle was based.

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Erskine Childers' Vixen (on which "Dulcibella of The Riddle" was based) in one of his last seasons of ownership in 1899. At first glance, she looks like a typical old-style cruising cutter of her era. But somewhere in there is a classic canoe-sterned RNLI lifeboat hull to which an afterdeck on a counter stern have been fitted as an add-on.

That cruise was in 1897, and shortly after it was completed, Childers went off to serve in the Boer War. This experience left him with doubts about the validity of the British Imperial mission, but equally left him in no doubt that on active service, there were no medals for enduring unnecessary discomfort. So by the time The Riddle of the Sands was published in 1903, Vixen was sold and he'd become a partner in a much more comfortable cruising boat, the yawl Sunbeam, which in turn was followed in 1905 by his very comfortable dreamship Asgard

Meanwhile, with the Iris a fifteen or so years earlier in Dublin, the conversion to a comfortable sailing cruiser was a more straightforward affair, as she'd a more versatile hull shape with a broad stern in the first place, and her new owner was one George Prescott, an innovator bordering on genius. He was an optical and scientific instrument maker, an electrical engineer and inventor, and a state-of-the-art clockmaker.

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Man of many parts – the polymath George Prescott. Organising the Graphic Cruising Club and running its club-ship Iris was only one of his many interests. He led a long and extraordinarily interesting and varied life, and was nearly a hundred years old at the time of his death in 1942. Courtesy Cormac Lowth

But that was only one part of his life, for he had many friends among Dublin artists, particularly those interested in maritime topics, and he soon found himself to be the secretary of the Graphic Cruisers Club for sailing painters and sketchers, with the Iris becoming the base of their waterborne creative and scientific expeditions on the coast of the greater Dublin area.

She was ideal for this. She'd been converted for sailing with an orthodox gaff ketch rig, while her roomy hull was internally re-configured to have a galley with a large stove right aft, a huge saloon immediately forward of the galley to be both the clubroom and dining room, and sleeping quarters port and starboard in pilot cutter style forward of that.

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Quite a transformation for a former steam-powered naval pinnace. The 60ft ketch Irish in her heyday as the club ship of the Graphic Cruisers Club in the 1890s. She is at her home anchorage off Ringsend, while across the Liffey a couple of Ringsend trawlers are lying in the roadstead known as Halpin's Pool, where the Alexandra Basin is now located. Photo courtesy Cormac Lowth

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Accommodation profile of the Iris in her days as the floating HQ of the Graphic Cruisers Club – this sketch by Alexander William first appeared in The Yachtsman magazine in 1894.

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Hull section of the Iris at the saloon, showing the bilge keels which enabled her to dry out comfortably in some some little-known tidal anchorages in the Greater Dublin area.

But underneath the hull, the temptation had been resisted to add a deep keel, and instead the Iris was fitted with substantial bilge keels at the same depth as the shallow keel itself, such that in all she drew only about 3ft 6ins, and would comfortably dry out in a snug berth anywhere that her artistic crew felt they might find subjects worthy of their attention.

Thus she might overnight serenely on the beach at Ireland's Eye or far up the estuary at Rogerstown, and if the Graphic Cruisers Club attention was turned towards County Wicklow, she could comfortably take the ground in Bray or in other little ports inaccessible to orthodox cruising yachts. Yet the claim was that despite the odd arrangements beneath the waterline, she handled remarkably well on all points of sailing, and certainly as she no longer had any sort of engine, she must have sailed neatly enough to get out of some of the confined berths into which her eccentric crew enjoyed putting her.

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The Iris in gentle cruising mode off Ireland's Eye as the moon rises – this was sketched by Alexander Williams for The Yachtsman in 1894.

George Prescott seems to have been happy to claim that Iris was a club-owned yacht, but in truth most of his shipmates were impecunious artists of varying talent, so it was his generosity and understated business ability which would have kept the partnership together.

However, it really did seem to function as a partnership, for after the Iris project had been up and running for nearly a decade, he turned his attention in 1896 to building an unusual house on the waterfront on the Pigeonhouse Road in Ringsend, which he happily acknowledged to be the clubhouse of the Graphic Cruisers Club even if he lived in it himself.

Called Sandefjord for some reason which is still unexplained, it looked not unlike a smaller sister of the Coastguard Station next door, complete with a lookout tower. And it's distinctly nautical within, as much of the interior includes fine panelling which came from the wrecked Finnish sailing ship Palme, with the stairs being provided by the old ship's main companionway.

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The house called Sandefjord near Poolbeg Y & BC as it is in 2015. When built by George Prescott in 1896, it faced across the Pigeonhouse Road directly onto the waterfront, and overlooked the summer anchorage of the Iris. Photo: W M Nixon

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The design style of the Graphic Cruisers Club shore HQ at Sandefjord reflected the lookout tower of the old Coastguard Station next door. Photo: W M Nixon

The house has been restored to become a family home in recent years, and it really is an extraordinary piece of work to come upon on the slip road down to Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club. Meanwhile, interest in the doings of the Graphic Cruisers Club has been restored by the formidable research talents and tenacity of Cormac Lowth, who single-handedly does more work in uncovering unjustly ignored aspects of Dublin Bay's maritime life in all its variety than you'd get from an entire university department.

I first came across a reference to the Graphic Cruisers Club years ago in an article in an 1894 issue of The Yachtsman magazine, written by Alexander Williams (1846-1930), who was probably the club's most accomplished marine artist. But that was then, this is now, and it has taken Cormac Lowth's dedication in recent times to get the extraordinary setup around George Prescott and Alexander Williams and their friends and shipmates into the proper context.

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Alexander Williams RHA was the best-known artist in the Graphic Cruisers Club. A taxidermist of international repute, he was also a noted ornithologist, and his interest in maritime subjects was matched by his enthusiasm for landscape. He was one of the first artists to "discover" Achill Island in the west of Ireland, and in time he created a remarkable garden there in a three years project in which he personally worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the build team.

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A classic Alexander Williams portrayal of the trawlers of Ringsend with other shipping in the Liffey. Thanks to research by Cormac Lowth, we are now aware of how the style of the Ringsend sailing trawlers came about through links, between 1818 and the 1914 outbreak of Great War, with the pioneering fishing port of Brixham in Devon, which was the most technologically advanced fishing port in Europe in the mid 1800s. Courtesy Cormac Lowth

They were larger than life, every last one of them, and Prescott and Williams in particular were renaissance men who could turn their hand to any number of creative projects at a time when life around Dublin was fairly buzzing for those with the energy and interest to enjoy it.

And there were links to other aspects of Dublin waterfront life which have a further resonance. Back in January, I'd to give one of the supper talks at the National YC in Dun Laoghaire, and on this occasion the topic was John B Kearney (1879-1967), the Ringsend-born yacht designer and boatbuilder who was the club's Rear Commodore for the last 21 years of his life.

You need some sort of special little link to bring these talks to life, but fortunately I remembered that there's a fine big Alexander Williams painting of sailing trawlers at Ringsend in the NYC's dining room. I didn't know its date as we headed round the bay on the night of the talk, but we struck gold. It was dated 1890.

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The Brixham style in Ringsend was best exemplified by the largest trawler built in the Dublin port, the St Patrick (right) of 53 tons built in 1887 in the Murphy family's boatyard beside the mouth of the River Dodder. The Murphy family also owned and operated the St Patrick in her fishing, and when John Kearney built his renowned yachts, the earliest (and best) of them were built in a corner of Murphy's Boatyard - the Ainmara in 1912, the Mavis in 1925, and the Sonia in 1929. Photo courtesy Cormac Lowth

Williams was so fond of the Ringsend scene that he lived there for a while in Thorncastle Street where John B Kearney was born, and of course the painter subsequently sailed regularly from the old port in the Iris, and would have over-nighted at Sandefjord too. He is in fact the definitive Ringsend maritime artist, and the picture in the NYC expresses this. And as it includes some of the Ringsend waterfront, we could say that it also includes John B Kearney, for in 1890 the precocious eleven-year-old Ringsend schoolboy was in the boatyards as much as possible, as he had already stated in his quietly stubborn way that his ultimate ambition was to be a yacht designer.

Not a boatbuilder or a shipwright or a harbour engineer, which is nevertheless what he was until he retired in 1944. But upon his leaving the day job - in which he'd been highly respected - he then devoted all his energies to what he had been doing all his life in his spare time. And with his death aged 88 in 1967, his gravestone in Glasnevin cemetery said it all: John Breslin Kearney (formerly of Dublin Port & Docks Board) Yacht Designer.

And if you wonder how on earth we have come to a consideration of John Kearney's memorial stone in an article which purports to be about the social glues which keep boat partnerships in good order, believe me when you get involved with the boys of the Graphic Cruisers Club you never know where it's all going to end.

We've already discovered that in later life Alexander Williams devoted much energy to his garden in Achill while at the same time continuing to be an active member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin. As for George Prescott, he too broadened his already extensive interests, and in his eighties he was much into amateur opera production, even being so deeply involved as to paint the stage scenery himself.

Dublin too was expanding, so he accepted that a move eastward was needed if he was going to be able to continue to commune directly with his beloved sea. So he left Sandefjord, and the final decades of his wonderful life were spent at his new home at The Hermitage on Merrion Strand. Needless to say, Alexander Williams provided him with a painting of The Hermitage which captured the then unspoilt nature of a place you'd scarcely recognize today.

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The Hermitage on Merrion Strand, George Prescott's last home as portrayed by Alexander Williams. Courtesy Cormac Lowth

Published in W M Nixon

#Angling - Casting Territory: A Contemporary River Keepers’ Index of Lesser Known Patterns is a new collaborative art project by artist Martina O’Brien and the Dodder Anglers Club.

O'Brien uses the art of fly-tying – where the act of imitation meets intimate knowledge – to explore the angler’s inherent awareness of flora and fauna, physical geography and role as guardians of the River Dodder with a series of alternative flies.

The exhibition is divided across three locations – RUA RED in Tallaght, the RDS Library and Archives in Ballsbridge and the Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre at Grand Canal Quay – allowing a complete story to unfold along the length and breath of the river’s axis.

In addition to this, a fly-tying demonstration will be followed by an artist-led discussion with Gareth Kennedy, Martina O’Brien and members of the Dodder Anglers core group at RUA RED from 2pm to 4pm on Saturday 7 February.

And on Saturday 21 February a collaborative discussion with Dr Karen E Till of Maynooth University, Katherine Atkinson of Create, Martina O'Brien and the Dodder anglers will take place at 10am at the RDS Library and Archives, involving a walk to the Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre (prior booking is essential).

Casting Territory is supported by an Arts Council Artist in the Community Scheme Project Realisation Award managed by Create, the national development agency for collaborative arts.

Published in Angling
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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.

Competitions

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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