Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Displaying items by tag: Asgard II

Dubin's Lord Mayor opened a Tall Ship and Youth Sail Training Workshop with an agenda to seek a solution to the current Irish Sail Training impasse caused by the loss of sailing's Asgard II and Lord Rank.

Over 70 delegtes including many of the 'top brass' of the Irish Tall Ship commuunity attended the meeting held at the offices of Dublin Port Company on Saturday (26th March). The meeting inlcuded members of Coiste an Asgard, port companies, education, tourism and other sailing interests.

The meeting was formally opened by Dublin Lord Mayor and Port Admiral, Gerry Breen who introduced the chairman Lord Glentoran and the Facilitator Michael Counahan.

Tallshipschairmen

From (Left to right)  Seamus McLoughlin, Dublin Port Head of Operations,  Enda Connellan, Chairman Tall Ships Dublin 2012, Des Whelan, Chair Tall Ships Waterford 2011,  Lord Glentoran (Robin Dixon) Chair Tall Ships Belfast 1992,  Dr. Gerard O'Hare, Chair Tall Ships Belfast 2009,  Ted Crosbie, Tall Ships Cork and  Enda O'Coineen, LetsdoitGlobal.

Des Whelan gave an excellent talk and presentation on Tall Ships Waterford which was followed by a discussion on the massive economic benefits of bringing Tall Ships Festivals To Dublin, Cork and Belfast. Chairman of Tall Ships Dublin 2012 Enda Connellan and Ted Crosbie of Tall Ships Cork and Dr. Gerard O' Hare of Tall Ships Belfast discussed the incredible success stories from their respective ports festivals.
Several presentations and discussions followed regarding the role of Tall Ships in Sail Training, the connection between a vessel for Ireland and running events here. The question of who are the stakeholders and how can benefits be quantified was also discussed.
The meeting was hosted by Dublin Port Company who provided a warm welcome, excellent facilities, refreshments and a wonderful lunch with senior management attending to everyone's needs.
After lunch there were further discussions on what is the most suitable vessel, who should run the organisation and what would work best for Ireland.

Jimmy Tyrrell gave a short, eloquent and emotional account of Asgard II and the realisation of his father's dream which was fulfilled beyond all expectation by that legendary vessel and those who were privileged to sail on her. He affirmed his own belief that the way forward was with an All-Ireland Tall Ship and even suggested that she be called Spirit of Ireland. There were other suggestions for a name inlcuding 'Ireland's Call'.

A view was also expressed that politics and religion have no place in Sail Trail Training and the future lay in an All-Ireland Commercial/Charitable Trust Venture.

The prohibitive nature of current legislation and the total lack of awareness of the maritime sector by the Government was mentioned several times.

Ocean Youth Club NI provided four young sail trainees to address the gathering on the benefits of Sail Training from their perspective and representatives from education, tourism Tall Ships International and "Association Of Tall Ships Organisations" also contributed.

The general consensus was the need to develop and promote, as a matter of urgency, a plan for a Tall Ship For Ireland linking Youth, Maritime Education, Business and Tourism.

Another workshop will be held in Belfast in April and the collective input of both meetings will be considered going forward.

A Tall Order for Ireland? HERE

Regular updates on Irish Tall Ship sailing news HERE

More on Asgard II HERE

Published in Tall Ships
The New Ross based replica famine sailing barque Dunbrody opened yesterday to visitors for the first time this year after completion of a refit, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Since November the 458-tonnes barque (see photo) has been under maintenance in the dry-dock at the New Ross Boat Yard. On Saturday morning she was eased out of the dry-dock and was moored opposite on the far bank of the River Barrow at the Marshmeadows berth. It was not until yesterday morning that she made the short distance upriver to return to her County Wexford 'homeport'.

A grant of €1m from Fáilte Ireland was allocated towards the cost of the refit as part of the National Development Plan (NDP). Visitors can now take guided tours of the floating tourist attraction though access to the shoreside visitor centre remains closed due to an upgrade. Work on an extension of a new exhibition centre is expected to be completed in May or June.

Dunbrody is a full scale reconstruction of the 19th century replica famine-ship based on the vessel built in 1845 in Quebec, Canada for the Graves family of New Ross. Ireland's most inland port being made famous with the visit of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to the same quayside where Dunbrody is berthed.

To date the Dunbrody's presence outside her homeport has been scarce. During the Waterford Tall Ships Festival in 2005 she took part in a memorable and historic 'Parade of Sail' where she formed as part of the trio of Irish tall ships that met together for the only time. The sailing spectacle of the international fleet was headed firstly by the Irish trio with Asgard II leading followed by Dunbrody and astern the Jeanie Johnston.

In the following year Dunbrody made her maiden and only international voyage to Milford Haven in south Wales. The Pembrokeshire estuary had hosted the new festival, Seafair Haven. On that occasion she had the honour of leading another parade of sail, under the command of Captain Tom McCarthy.

Dunbrody was last dry-docked in 2006 and also at the New Ross boatyard which lies on the Co. Kilkenny side of the riverbank. The 176 foot / 54 metre barque was built in 2001 and was last vessel completed at the boatyard. During her building the public could access the yard and the construction process could be viewed from above at a gallery set within the covered building hall.

The structure no longer exists but which was built originally for the Ross Company boatyard during the 1970's. The yard specialised in building barge pontoons for markets in the North Sea until the premises closed in the 1980's. In recent years and under new management the dry-dock (75m X 15m) has been upgraded with a new gate and pump.

Looking for further reading on Tall Ships in Ireland? Click the links below:

Click this link to read all our Tall Ships Stories on one handy page


Previewing Ireland's Tall Ships 2011 Season


Can Ireland Get a New Tall Ship?

Published in Tall Ships
There are now only 100-days to the countdown of the Waterford Tall Ships Festival which is sailing into Irish waters at the end of June, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The four-day festival starting on 30 June returns to the south-eastern city which hosted the prestigious event in 2005. This year the maritime spectacle
is to draw 500,000 visitors from home and abroad. The festival is to be presented by Szczecin and organised by the Sail Training International.

Over 70 of the worlds tall-ships of all shapes and sizes will sail up the River Suir to take up residence on both sides of Waterford's city centre quays, where a major meeting of over 1,500 trainee sailors stretching from far and distant shores are to congregate.

One of the attending Class 'A' fully rigged ships, Christian Radich, which was built in 1937, incidentally provided sail-training opportunities for Irish trainees in an arrangement between her Norwegian owners and Coiste an Asgard. The sail-trainee agreement in 2009 followed the sinking of Coiste an Asgard's brigantine the Asgard II in the previous year. This was to be the last season of the state-owned sail training agency which was axed in the 2009 budget.

Another 'A' lister is the UK flagged Royalist, a brig built by Groves and Gutteridge in Cowes, Isle of Wight to a design by Colin Mudie. The 40 year old brig was named by HRH Princess Anne in 1971 for the Sea Cadet Association. She may be small for an 'A' class at just 28-metres long but the vessel can easily be spotted with her distinctive black and white painted hull.

While one of the oldest vessels to participant is the 87 year-old Brixham built trawler Provident, which along with Leader, are the only 'sailing' survivors of a once numerous traditional North Sea fishing craft. The 95-foot vessel was built at Galmpton on the River Dart. In 1991 there was a major refit of the 85 tonnes craft which has since 1999 worked from Brixham as part of the Trinity Sailing Foundation.

The event which is billed as the largest Irish festival in 2011 also presents young Irish people to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity to set sail onboard a tall-ship. The opportunity is open to those aged 16 or over by June 30 and are fit and active to be a trainee on the inaugural race leg from Waterford to Greenock (departing 3 July). For details click here.

On this date the eagerly awaited 'Parade of Sail' is set to depart the crystal city downriver on the Waterford Estuary and out into the open sea.

Looking for further reading on Tall Ships in Ireland? Click the links below:

Click this link to read all our Tall Ships Stories on one handy page


Previewing Ireland's Tall Ships 2011 Season


Can Ireland Get a New Tall Ship?

Published in Tall Ships
12th March 2011

Tall Order for Ireland

Sailing in Ireland could yet have a tall ship to replace the Asgard II and the Lord Rank. A meeting in Dublin in late March represents a major step forward in the process to put an Irish tall ship back on the high seas.

The open workshop, to be held on March 26th, will be facilitated by Dublin Port, and will include state interests, tourism interests, commercial port interests, youth organisations, maritime organisations and education groups, together with the former Lord Rank and Asgard II operators.

The catalyst for the initiative is a 'reference group' which represents a broad cross-section of interests, both North and South. Operating under the chairmanship of Lord Glentoran, and supported by Dr Gerard O'Hare, David Beattie and Enda O'Coineen, the group has also engaged a professional consulting firm to move the process along.

The initial focus is on the necessary organisation and rationale behind building a new vessel, while scientifically quantifying the benefits to build a plan and justification.

The view taken is that, while there may be no money available at this time, there is no excuse for not having a plan and the idea is to create ' joined-up' thinking. And while the government in the South placed the insurance money paid out on Asgard II back into general exchequer funds, the insurance payment on the Lord Rank was kept and ' ring-fenced' for this new initiative.

To date, there have been several meetings of the reference group. The planned workshop on the subject at Dublin Port March 26 is open and interested parties are invited to contribute. It will also bring together for the first time the leaders of Tallships in Dublin, Belfast, Waterford and Cork.
Ultimately Tall Ships is about youth training and development; without an active Tall Ship, it will be very difficult for Ireland to attract Tall Ship events. The new reference group will work to support the new Sail Training Ireland Association initiative, and link in with Sail Training International which runs Tall Ship events.

Following the Dublin workshop, Belfast Harbour Commissioners will host a working meeting of the group in early May to finalise a plan, present to stakeholders and create a roadmap forward.

"In addition to youth training, a working Tall Ship forms a brilliant ambassadorial role promoting tourism, enterprise and commercial interests," said Lord Glentoran. "It is something that we can all relate to and it has universal acceptance for youth training on an island of Ireland basis." Lord Glentoran has a long commitment to youth sail training and was Chairman of the organising committee that brought the Tall Ships to Belfast in 1991.

The reference group is seeking to engage with as many stakeholders as possible, and has pledged that the new vessel will be owned by the community in Ireland and the Irish Diaspora. The initial view is that the project clearly needs to be linked with the institutions of State - North and South - as are universities state agencies and ports, while at the same time having a strong private support network making for a mix of public and private funding, "We now have a brilliant opportunity to look around the world, establish best practice in the best kind of vessel, how to fund it and to quantify the benefits for each of the stakeholder group," said Enda O'Coineen, who has been instrumental in bringing the group together. In addition to being a former Coiste and Asgard Director, he is the founding Chairman of Let's Do It Global, which brought the Volvo Ocean Race to Galway and successfully raced the Green Dragon around the world.

O'Coineen added that a "world class solution" can be created and that its benefits can be financially quantified, which would allow supporters to make a compelling business case to divert and use existing funds in Tourism, Enterprise and Youth Training. "While there is no money available now to support the scale and professionalism needed, this is not an excuse not to have a plan and a vision," he added.

Since the loss of the Asgard II and Lord Rank, Ireland has been left with no sail training opportunities for young people and likewise for maritime development, enterprise and tourism. If nothing is done, future generations will suffer. The reference group believes that the solution is the construction of an Ireland - North and South - training vessel, fulfilling several roles with a common mission and resourced according to quantifiable benefits delivered to stakeholders. It is also open to the use of an existing vessel - a key component being suitability and the operations budget.

The proposed Tall Ship project will enhance skills and opportunities for young people across the island, regardless of background, class or education. It could be used to showcase Ireland as a brand at overseas events and it could also host international students who wish to come to the island of Ireland, as is the case with many of the International Tall Ships Programmes already running on a global scale which create a huge amount of tourism for their respective countries.

The reference group notes that the Tall Ships concept appeals to young and old alike as the romanticism behind the concept touches on history, social studies, legacy, family, travel, adventure and, most importantly, fun. Tall Ships allow people to dream. They do however have an underlying seriousness and the concept is grounded in methodology that has been tested and proven the world over.

An advertisement in March/April of Afloat magazine - out now - gives full detials of the 'Tall Ship for Ireland' Workshop

Should Ireland be represented at the Tall Ships Races at Waterford 2011 and Dublin 2012? We want your vote on our Facebook Poll HERE.

Looking for further reading on Tall Ships in Ireland? Click the links below:

Click this link to read all our Tall Ships Stories on one handy page


Previewing Ireland's Tall Ships 2011 Season


Published in Tall Ships

Ireland could yet have a Tall ship to replace the Asgard II and the Lord Rank, if a new sailing group formed to press for a replacement is successful. The news is in this morning's Irish Times newspaper. Groups representating different interests from maritime to tourism to economic are getting together for a special conference on March 26th in Dublin Port. The full Irish Times story is HERE. Next week in Afloat magazine's March/April issue an article called 'Tall Order for Ireland' gives all the details on the conference. It includes a 'call for contributions' from key stakeholders who would support a Tall Ship for Ireland. More details HERE. And in a separate article WM Nixon looks at the realities of national sail training in the 21st Century.  This new move on a replacement seems to have entirely appropriate timing; Asgard II was commissioned in Arklow 30 years ago this week, on March 7, 1981.

Looking for further reading on Tall Ships in Ireland? Click the links below:

Click this link to read all our Tall Ships Stories on one handy page


Previewing Ireland's Tall Ships 2011 Season


Can Ireland Get a New Tall Ship?

Published in Tall Ships

Is there no end to the achievements of Irish boaters against seemingly impossible odds?

The winter may have been a time of hibernation for some of us but as the stories in Afloat's March/April issue will bear out Irish sailors have been battling the elements all winter long.

James Carroll competed in January's Sydney-Hobart offshore race and, much closer to home, Paul A. Kay journeyed through snow and ice in December from Dun Laoghaire to a new marina on Valentia Island.
As if to prove a point that we're down but not out, a winter of results on foreign waters includes a win in the Mirror World Championships in Australia and a top Olympic result in Florida, USA.

They are gutsy performances from youth teams that shows, if nothing else, the next generation of Irish sailors is really up for a fight. All this plus lots, lots more on news-stands next week!

Selected contents from Ireland's only boating magazine include:

News

Surveyors Issue Boat Launch Warning, Buoyant Dinghies Buck the Market, Ice Diving in Ireland, German U-Boat Rediscovered in Cork Harbour, an Historic Trophy for South Pacific Dream Cruise, MGM open in Cork, Hugh Mockler joins Crosshaven Boatyard plus lots, lots more.

News Focus

A new masterplan for Dun Laoghaire harbour is badly needed but it needs buy in from all those that use it

Going Offshore

The tenth Dun Laoghaire to Dingle offshore race was launched in style

Marine Conference

Combating the downturn was the focus of a unique marine gathering on both sides of the Irish sea.

kit

Gear Review

New dinghy gear, a new Crosshaven boot from Dubarry, a new raincoat for girls and an upgrade for Musto's MPX.

islandnaton

This Island Nation

The decision to shut down the fog signals was based on a detailed risk assessment. Tom MacSweeney on the loss of fog horns

ol

Sailor of the Year

Anthony O'Leary of Cork is the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Year" in celebration of his outstanding achievements afloat nationally and internationally.

Tall Ships

W M Nixon looks at the realities of national sail training in the 21st Century.

Screen-shot-2011-03-03-at-09.32.25

Tall Ship Conference

Ireland could yet have a tall ship to replace the Asgard II and the Lord Rank, if a new group formed to press for a replacement is successful

Racing update

Ulstermen's World Title, Topper worlds for Dun Laoghaire, Two Irish campaigns line up for Figaro Race, SB3 Sailors Cry Foul at Dun Laoghaire Parking Fees and an Irish entry in the Moth worlds in Australia, Irish Mini 6.50 Campaign in Prospect.

miamigrab

Youth Worlds preview

Results achieved abroad this Winter are the backbone for further Irish youth
success

figarobgrab

Figaro Preview

Two fledgling Irish La Solitaire du Figaro campaigns edged closer to the start line last month

Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta

Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta has taken in 22 entries six months ahead of the first race of the biggest regatta in Irish sailing.

fireballgrab

Fireball Worlds preview

Dun Laoghaire's Noel Butler intends to continue his winning run in the Fireball class this season but the year ahead doesn't look so easy as the World Championships come to Sligo

Sovereigns cup preview

Up to 30 Quarter tonners will be at the Sovereigns Cup this year including one from New Zealand.

Shiver to deliver

A journey through snow and ice from Dun Laoghaire to Valentia Island

Sydney-Hobart Race

Outside of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Sydney Hobart is one of the world's most challenging offshore races. James Carroll Raced it in January.

Inland

As the cuts begin to bite, it may be time to look at the British direction for our waterways, writes Brian J Goggin

Dubarry Nautical Crossword

Soundings

A Google aerial photo proves useful navigating for Baldoyle Estuary

Published in News Update
Dive Ireland, Ireland's dedicated dive show is taking place this coming weekend on the 5th & 6th March. The venue is the City North Hotel off the M1 Northbound and just 15 minutes from Dublin airport and 25 minutes from Dublin city.

CFT who are the national governing body for sports diving in Ireland will hold it's AGM and National Dive Conference at this event.

Some of the speakers include the following:

Jack Ingle Kit configuration

Barry McGill Deep wreck diving off the Donegal Coast

Nigel Motyer Underwater photographer

Tim Carey & Eoin Mc Garry Dive expedition to Asgard II in 2010

Ken O'Sullivan Irish ocean wildlife series Showing January 23rd TG4

Shane McArdle Sports Partnership and what it could mean for CFT clubs

More details and timetable HERE

Published in Diving

Dive Ireland, Ireland's only dedicated dive show is taking place on the 5th & 6th March. The venue
is the City North Hotel just off the M1 Northbound. Just 15 minutes from Dublin airport and 25 minutes from Dublin city.

CFT who are the national governing body for sports diving in Ireland will hold it's AGM and National Dive Conference at this event.

Some of the speakers include the following:

Jack Ingle Kit configuration

Barry McGill Deep wreck diving off the Donegal Coast

Nigel Motyer Underwater photographer

Tim Carey & Eoin Mc Garry Talk on the dive expedition to Asgard II in 2010

Ken O'Sullivan Irish ocean wildlife series Showing January 23rd TG4

Shane McArdle Sports Partnership and what it could mean for CFT clubs

Published in Diving
22nd December 2010

Diving Asgard II

In September 2008 an iconic part of maritime Ireland silently and tacitly slipped beneath the surface of the Bay of Biscay near the idyllic island of Belle Isle writes Timmy Carey.

Asgard II was on a journey from Falmouth to La Rochelle for routine maintenance when it would succumb to its fate of a watery grave, thankfully captain Colm Newport was able to safely abandon the ship with the entire crew of 25.

Since 1981 Asgard II a beautiful brigantine designed by Jack Tyrell and built in Arklow had served the Irish nation with distinction all over the globe, providing sail training for over 10,000 people; the image of the bright green hull and white sails becoming synonymous with Irish sailing.

asgard_montage

Main: Asgard's wheel prior to removal. Asgard campaigner Captain Gerry Burns (left) holds Asgard's bell with diver Eoin McGarry and the Tricolour defiantly draped on Asgard II

In addition to such a proud history, Asgard II also carried on the name and traditions of Asgard; which played such a pivotal role in Irish history and in the foundation of the state. In Norse religion Asgard was the home of the Norse gods and it is fitting that a vessel with such an auspicious name would later be called "the harbinger of Irish freedom" by the President of Ireland Eamonn De Valera.

Asgard was built in 1905 in larvik and was a wedding gift from Dr and Mrs Hamilton Osgood of Boston to their daughter Mary and her husband Erskine Childers (the father of the future president of Ireland). In a magnificent feat of seamanship (which was reminiscent of his famous novel the riddle of the sands) Erskine Childers in the company of his wife and others expertly collected arms from Hamburg and landed them in Howth on the 26th of July 1914 for the Irish volunteers. In one of the great ironies of Anglo-Irish history Erskine Childers a decorated British war veteran would become an avowed Irish republican and would play a crucial role in the struggle for independence as minister for propaganda (being very highly thought of by both Eamonn De Valera and Michael Collins); before being executed in the Irish civil war.

In 1961 the Irish government purchased the vessel for sail training and in 1968 Coiste and Asgard was founded and was assigned responsibility for the vessel. With the launch of Asgard II, the original Asgard was transferred to the national museum where it has been expertly restored to its original glory and will in the future be available for general viewing.

With such a rich maritime heritage and being so deeply engrossed in Irish history popular view in late 2008 was that the Irish government would salvage Asgard II as a symbol of Irish pride; alas it would later be decided by the Irish government to abandon Asgard II with the uniquely Irish bowsprit of Grainne Uaile condemned to a permanent watery grave on foreign shores.

As with many diving expeditions, they often begin with a simple conversation and one late night a phone call from Eoin McGarry would begin with "what do you think of diving the Asgard II next year". Soon the idea generated its own momentum and a small team of Irish trimix divers (all of whom are CFT members) was assembled and preliminary plans were made for July 2010.

Despite the fact that no permission was necessary to dive the vessel under Irish or French law, it was decided to notify the Irish government of dive teams intentions to video the wreck and recover some of the artefacts for the Irish people. On contacting Coiste an Asgard the reaction of the board was very negative indicating that the artefacts were of little value and that due to the depth involved they were not in favour of any dives taking place.

A little disillusioned it was decided to make representations directly to the Minister for Defence and soon a government TD with a real interest in Irish history discussed the idea with the Minister for Defence Willie O Dea.

asgard_name

The ships name looming out from the darkness

In early February the dive team would receive a personal letter from the minister indicating that "enquiries are being made into the matter and I will write to you again shortly". In addition a TD had also confirmed to the dive team that the minister had indicated that he thought it was a great idea and wished the dive team well. Unfortunately within a very short time period the minister had to resign and the dive team received no further correspondence.

With the Irish government engrossed in an economic recession of epic proportions, the dive team decided to proceed before the ships artefacts were removed by foreign dive teams and lost to the state forever.

With time ticking by the final team of Eoin Mc Garry as expedition organiser, Brendan Flanagan of Longford Sub Aqua club, Phil Murphy and Frank McKenna both of Kilkenny Sub Aqua and myself were assembled as the bottom divers. With an emphasis on keeping the costs down as the divers would be financing the trip, the decision would eventually be made to have one cover diver to help the divers kit up and look after all the surface logistics; this would also allow all the dive team travel together in the one vehicle and reduce the travel costs. Being a qualified mixed diver as well as native of Brittany; Stephane Portrait of Blackwater Sub Aqua Club would become an essential member of the dive team without whom the trip could not have been successful.

Over the coming months Stephane and Eoin would work tirelessly on the logistics, which would be vastly more onerous and detailed than an expedition to the Lusitania. As well as the small issues of organising ferries, accommodation, a dive centre and a dive boat; the dive team would also notify in writing the local mayor of Belle Isle, the local tourist office, the local lifeboat and the admiral of the French national lifeboat institution in Paris, the local council and the head admiral of the Atlantic fleet of the French navy of the dive teams intentions.

Our dive boat skipper Yann Quere being the secretary of the French national sailing organisation and a Moniteur 3 with FFESSM (the French equivalent of CFT in CMAS), would be of huge assistance and confirmed to the dive team that there were no restrictions in diving the wreck. In addition the Irish government had not even requested an exclusion order be placed on the site to preserve the Asgard II, meaning it could be legally dived by any dive team at any time.

During the last few weeks endless hours would be spent reviewing the vessels plans, photographs and video clips; trying to decide what obstacles could lay ahead in trying to video and photograph the wreck as well as removing the bell, helm and compass. Eoin would even go so far as contacting Tyrell's to get the specifications of how the wheel was fitted and what size bolts were used to bolt the bell on.

A specialist dive tool bag was then assembled with all anticipated tools colour coded and placed into the bag in the order of their anticipated use; to try and eliminate wasting any precious bottom time. Only a few weeks to go and word came that a French technical dive team also had their eyes set on the Asgard II, would we arrive to late and would all the artefacts have disappeared into the possession of French or British divers; only time would tell.

Being Jury president of the CFT Moniteur 3 test on Inisboffin the day before the trip to France, my preparation time was hardly ideal; getting home after 10 pm on Friday then having to blend several mixes and assemble camera and rebreather equipment; grab a precious five hours sleep and head for the ferry. Seeing familiar faces of friends and dive buddies all thoughts of fatigue soon evaporated in anticipation of a good weeks diving. During the last week Paddy Agnew also joined the group and would assist Stephane on the surface during the course of the week.

Arriving in the idyllic harbour of Belle Isle the sight of the Irish Tricolour flying from the tourist office on our behalf was a good omen. That evening our skipper told us the water would be warm, the sea flat calm and visibility would be at least 10 meters with ambient light at depth; and we headed to bed in good spirits for an early start. Leaving the harbour with a strengthening breeze we would soon be greeted by a stiff force five and with cylinders rolling around at the stern of our dive boat; conditions were marginal as a small blob at 84 meters showed up on the screen of the GPS.

Our next concern would be the number of prawn trawlers that were fishing quite close by in the direction we anticipated our decompression station moving. With the Bay of Biscay having notoriously unpredictable weather it seemed that we would be treated to diving conditions more reminiscent of the south coast of Ireland. After an arduous time kitting up in a pitching sea in a dive boat, which doesn't normally cater for technical divers; the cooling effect of the sea came as welcome relief as Eoin Mc Garry and I dived first. Eoin would be taking video footage and I would be taking stills with my Ikelite camera housing rated to 60 meters, hopefully it would not leak at 84 metres! (at least the strobe was rated to 90 meters).

Dropping through layers of water the temperature soon dropped from 19 on the surface to 9 degrees Celsius at depth, the biggest surprise however being the visibility. Beyond 60 meters ambient light disappeared and visibility reduced to less than 1.5 meters; Irish diving conditions indeed. Landing on the Asgard II we could immediately see that our anchor line was perilously attached to the wreck and in danger of coming loose: something that was soon rectified. After adapting ourselves to the conditions it was good to see that my camera was surviving at 9 bar (at least for the moment) and we soon set off taking footage with Eoin taking video. Dropping down past the stern came the worm encrusted letters of Asgard II and swimming the length of the vessel it was soon apparent that she was in a sorry state. Both masts had collapsed and she had been badly damaged by trawlers; with one mast landing on the compass binnacle and the roof of the chart completely missing and almanacs aplenty neatly stacked in the shelves.

Amid the books and almanacs and nestled with a menacing grimace a large conger eel now stood sentinel in its new citadel. At the bow area it was a sorry sight to see the bowsprit of Grainne Uaile partially hidden by old sail, doomed forever to the seafloor. Swimming astern the sight of the ships helm still lashed was an amazing image that would cause all divers to become exuberant and all too soon our precious bottom time had elapsed and it was time for the mandatory 2 hours of decompression. Passing the second dive team who were also taking video footage the warm thermo clime was a welcome change from Irish diving conditions, but a strong surface current soon tempered that dramatically.

Back at the decompression station it was a strange sight to see that the strength of the current had orientated the decompression station at a 45-degree angle and instantly knew that the first hours decompression would be far from comfortable (until the second dive team had set the decompression station free in the current). Looking across at Eoin I could see the sight of the ships compass nestled safely in a bag, eliminating one of the objectives for day two. Surfacing to warm sunshine and with greatly moderated sea conditions we were soon planning dive objectives for day 2, pondering the difficulties of removing the ships bell and helm.

On unloading the boat back at Belle Isle we would have two groups of visitors, both unexpected. The first group were survivors of the sinking who had returned to Belle Isle sailing aboard the magnificent Le Belem and soon we were showing them the footage of the vessel they so hastily had to abandon.

The sight of two gendarmes taking to Stephane had the rest of us wondering what was happening, when it quickly emerged that a complaint had been received by the French police from an Irish government agency asking for the diving to be halted. While the rest of us blended gas and organised logistics for day two, Eoin and Stephane had very cordial discussion with French gendarmes who said we might not be able to dive the wreck later in the week.

The next morning with a 6 am start we were soon heading for the wreck site (with the Irish tricolour again flying from our dive boats mast) and were soon onsite. With the possibility of only one dive left on the Asgard II, dive objectives had to be reassigned and all divers were again assigned to two dive teams and we were soon descending a shot line in strong currents.

Approaching the ships hull seeing bubbles coming from my cameras strobe were not a welcome sight and I wondered would it work filled with seawater and found it did. The camera housing rated to 60m meters survived both dives unscathed; with the expert advice I had received on underwater photography earlier in the year from Ivan Donoghue, Simon Carolan and Nigel Moyter proving invaluable on the trip.

During this dive the dive team would again get video footage, which was given to the marine casualty investigation board for their report as well as getting more stills footage. Frank Mc Kenna soon had the ships bell and bracket removed and soon it was attached to a lifting bag and heading for the surface 84 meters above. Eoins' huge amount of prior research was soon hugely rewarded when the ships helm was also heading to the surface where Stephane Portrait was waiting to recover them.

The final act of the dive team would be to leave an Irish tricolour on a vessel whose name has such symbolism in Irish history, when Irish men and women overcame impossible odds to defeat the greatest empire on the globe to establish an Irish state after 700 years of struggle. The tricolour left draped on the wreck had been a gift from an ex member of the Irish Defence Forces and had last flown over and Irish Military Establishment and would serve as a fitting tribute to a vessel that had so eloquently represented Ireland in a maritime setting. Back aboard our dive vessel it was good to see that everyone had completed their decompression safely and that all objectives had been completed, with Stephane doing Trojan work for the bottom divers.

Once back ashore we would be astounded to hear of sensationalist newspaper headlines back home; giving a completely inaccurate version of events. That evening Eoin and Stephane would declare the artefacts to the equivalent of the French receiver of wrecks and would be told that the matter had been referred to the commodore of the local French naval base in Brest.

The following day the gendarmes would give the dive team a copy of a fax from the French naval base which confirmed that the dive team had broken no laws French or otherwise as we had known all along and the French gendarmes apologised for any inconvenience caused (that they had been acting on a fax from an Irish government body which was furnished to the dive team) and wished the dive team well.

Over the next few days of pleasure diving shallower wrecks two surprises would arise; the first that the visibility at the other end of the island was in stark contrast to that where the Asgard II lies and was typically twenty meters at depth!!! and secondly that the artefacts that we had previously been told were valueless were now suddenly of huge interest to Coiste an Asgard. Indeed it would puzzle everyone on the dive team at how helpful the French authorities were which was in stark contrast to their Irish counterparts; whom it would seem would have preferred to see these items disappear into the hands of continental or British dive teams. In the interim Eoin had got expert archaeological opinion in how best to preserve the wheel and spent a considerable sum of his own money in making a specialist box to ensure we could transport it in a wet condition back to Ireland.

Once back home the huge cascade of congratulatory messages to the dive team was a nice boost and made all the financial and personal sacrifice very worthwhile, as the volume of people with an interest in Irish maritime affairs soon became apparent. Back on Irish soil, the artefacts were registered with the Irish receiver of wrecks and handed over to him in custody as per maritime and salvage law. Hopefully in time these symbols of Irish maritime history and pride will be put on permanent display in a fitting venue such as the national museum next to the original Asgard or in Dun Laoghaire at the national maritime museum; where the 10,000 trainees who first learned to sail a tall ship aboard Asgard II can again hold that famous wheel or ring the bell.

Published in Diving

I am glad to see that efforts are being made to restore the national sail training programme, but less sanguine about reposing any confidence in the present Government to give practical assistance.

I talked a few weeks ago with the Irish Sailing Association's Chief Executive about their involvement in moves to establish a new sail training organisation to replace Coiste an Asgard, which the Government abandoned. Harry Hermon told me that the ISA had been examining the possibilities of what could be done. They were providing a forum which has now led to the setting-up of a steering group aimed at establishing a new organisation, Sail Training Ireland.

Sail Training International which organises the Tall Ships Races has given support. The Tall Ships Race will start from Waterford Port next year and is due into Dublin in 2012.

Nigel Rowe, Chairman of the international body, has expressed confidence that the current moves will result in a plan to continue sail training in Ireland. Sail Training International has awarded a bursary to the emerging Irish organisation, providing financial support for young Irish sailors in the 2011 and 2012 races.

The ISA working group says it will make a formal launch of its plans in the next few weeks. At present it is putting together a feasibility study and a business plan which will be presented to the Government in the New Year.

While the ISA move is welcome, I wonder about the value of presenting a plan to the existing Government which destroyed sail training, abandoned Asgard II on the seabed off France and used the insurance compensation money for purposes other than sail training.

I understand that other groups, who may differ with the ISA approach, have been planning their own moves in sail training and that the ISA decided to establish its position in public first.

It also has to be noted that there was criticism of the former Coiste an Asgard committee which did not make any moves in public to oppose the Government closure, on financial grounds, of the sail training programme.

It would be regrettable if differences delayed positive developments, but a united approach, involving the widest possible support to the restoration of sail training would be best.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation
Page 2 of 3

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

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating