Displaying items by tag: Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club
The flat calms and full-blown gales that have played havoc with the weekend sailing schedules as of late will have little effect on the November supper this Saturday 14 November at 7.30pm, nor the annual Christmas Dinner set for Friday 18 December, also at 7.30pm. Booking for both is available at www.dmyc.ie.
Other upcoming events include the new navigation class beginning this Friday 13 November at 7.30pm, running for four weeks. The Thursday Talks programme continues every week at 8pm (see the schedule on the clubhouse noticeboard for details), while Santa makes his visit for the club's younger members on Saturday 12 December at 12.30pm.
The DMYC has also announced its winter opening times, which will see the clubhouse office open Mondays from 10am to 1pm and Tuesdays to Fridays from 10am till 4.30pm.
Launch service is available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.30am to 4pm, and 10am to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Meanwhile the bar will be open on late Thursdays from 6pm till 11.30pm, Saturdays from noon till 8pm and Sundays from noon till 9pm.
Commodore Barry Kenny was commenting on the DMYC's efforts to negotiate a new lease of the clubhouse and slipway in Dun Laoghaire Harbour since the previous long-term agreement expired in 2009.
"Although we continue to pay rent, the lack of a lease causes a degree of insecurity and makes it difficult to attract the much needed grant funds, which other clubs have secured," he writes in the latest club newsletter.
The most recent push "to bridge the gap and agree a lease along the lines established by Liam Owens when he was commodore" resulted in a lease from the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company that was deemed "unacceptable in that it seemed based upon the proposition that the harbour company own our building."
Kenny adds: "These new terms were introduced without consultation, which will make good faith negotiations in the future difficult."
It is hoped that Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council's moves to assume control of the harbour would bring clarity to the situation in the near future.
But in the meantime, as Kenny writes, "it is the intention of the incoming committee to take steps to assert our rights to our clubhouse and slipway."
In other DMYC news, the AGM on 4 November heard that the decline in core membership is "coming to an end" thanks to a significant influx of new members since 2014, most of whom renewed for 2015.
"New members, many of whom are boat owners, tend to be active whether they are racing or cruising, crewing or fishing in Dublin Bay," writes Kenny. "Many have added value to the club by volunteering or serving on committee, and this will stand to DMYC in the future."
The AGM agreed new membership rates in line with the wish to bring ordinary rates down and retain new members for the long term.
In a statement, the club said: "We cannot in good conscience offer racing with that few boats, nor ask multiple volunteers to give their time."
In the series' stead, the DMYC will be running two Kish races, one for single- and double-handed boats (date to be confirmed) and another for fully crewed vessels scheduled for Sunday 27 September.
#inss – Last week, Sailing on Saturday featured the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the oldest in the world, as it comfortably donned the mantle of the ISA/Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year 2015. This morning, we find ourselves involved with what may well be the newest sailing club in the world, the Irish National Sailing Club. It is certainly, thanks to being inaugurated nearly three months after Youghal SC was founded on 28th October 2014, the newest in Ireland. W M Nixon tries to explain it all as he finds himself in the world of Irish sailing's most complete dynamo.
Alistair Rumball is a Life Member of the Awkward Squad. Cage-rattling and pot-stirring are second nature to him. But it's not because of experiencing an unhappy childhood. On the contrary, while growing up in Malahide, his boyhood summers were bliss. He and his brother Arthur had as much sailing as they could want, fitted in between part-time jobs raising pocket-money with a morning picking potatoes at Dermot Dickie's farm along the Broadmeadow Estuary, followed by an afternoon of sailing the sea with the sun always shining, and then maybe an evening of club racing followed by the easy camaraderie among kids who are comfortable with boats.
It was an idyllic maritime environment which, over the years, has produced some of Ireland's top racing and cruising sailors. But while the young Rumball was no slouch on the race-course, the strongest feeling he had about sailing was the sheer fun of it all, the totally absorbing wonder of being in a boat and hauling on ropes to make sails change shape and help you along your chosen course over the always interesting sea.
Although he graduated from Trinity College Dublin as an engineer, he increasingly had this almost evangelical attitude to spreading the good news about the fun of sailing. And while he has something of a reputation – to say the least - for being confrontational, it's central to his contradictory character that he's an extremely good teacher. If somebody shows the slightest genuine enthusiasm about wanting to learn to sail, Alistair Rumball has been prepared to go to endless lengths to teach him or her to do so, and to do so with enjoyment.
Underlying that, we find the first of his gripes about the modern sailing scene. He reckons that it has become far too serious. Don't think for a moment, though, that he believes in a frivolous approach to boats and sailing. He's deadly serious about having everything just right as regards safety and function.
But once that's sorted, then he firmly believes that you should go out and enjoy it. He waxes lyrical about moments of sheer sailing ecstasy he has enjoyed in a wide variety of boats in many sailing locations worldwide. And whatever he may have formally set out to be in a professional career, his working life has been spent in and around boats, getting people introduced to boats and out afloat, sometimes on an almost industrial scale.
Time was when sailing skills were something you acquired by a sort of osmosis through family tradition, club opportunities, and friendship examples. That's mostly how Rumball himself learned to handle a sailing boat. But he seems to have this almost messianic zeal to teach people to sail, and he became convinced that the future lay in more structured training with a proper syllabus.
Having taken a long hard look at the population distribution of the Greater Dublin area and where they might best get afloat in worthwhile numbers, in 1978 he acquired the assets of a moribund organisation, the Dun Laoghaire Sailing School, and soon found himself giving his first lessons to two pupils using a fibreglass-clinker Darragh 14 knockabout sailing dinghy which they'd launched from the public slipway in the Coal Harbour in Dun Laoghaire. The long journey had started towards an organisation whose activities today today include top-of-the-line race training in 1720s in winning mode:
The majestic granite harbour of Dun Laoghaire was a cold place in 1978 for any young enthusiasts trying to set up an independent sailing school on a commercial basis. For the powers that be, sailing was something to be learned through family and clubs under the Junior Training Programme of the Irish Yachting Association. If you were a young person or adult from a non-sailing background but keen to learn, unless you'd an obliging and patient friend from within the sailing establishment, the expectation was that you'd take yourself off to somewhere far away like the Glenans Ireland bases in Baltimore and Bere Island and Clew Bay, and eventually reappear after a decent interval with enough experience, newfound ability and contacts to make the grade in the Dublin Bay sailing scene, where the very thought of a raw in-harbour sailing school for outsiders seemed distasteful to the establishment.
Yet hidden away in the southwest corner of Dun Laoghaire harbour, here was this gadfly of the sailing scene, Can–do Alistair with his rough and ready sailing school enthusiastically recruiting pupils anywhere and everywhere, and taking them afloat in boats which may not have been in the most pristine condition, and certainly set sails which would not be winners on the race course, yet they were safe and able, and so were he and his instructors.
Over the years, an entire cohort of people, mainly from Dublin but also from all over Ireland with a useful smattering of pupils from abroad, came to boats and sailing thanks to this wild-haired character whose love of his demanding work shone through everything he did.
Gradually the fleet expanded, and so too did the "Rumball Group's" activities, even though the very limited availability of premises on the Dun Laoghaire waterfront meant that every little square foot they had always seemed to serve at least three different purposes. But they were getting there, they opened a retail outlet in the town to sell boat gear and equipment which became Viking Marine, the school promoted itself to being the Irish National Sailing School, and they were well settled in place, using every inch of space on the ground floor of the interesting little building on the southwest corner of the harbour which used to be the Nautical College.
The man and his machines – Alistair Rumball and his chariot outside the Irish National Sailing School's HQ in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: W M Nixon
Centuries ago, seafaring education was given a significant role in Irish life in the late 1700s, the 1800s, and the early 1900s with the old Marine School a fine building on the south quays in Dublin. But its premises were re-allocated for development purposes and the school itself had its final home in Clontarf before being absorbed only as a vague memory into what is now Mount Temple Comprehensive school.
These days, the marine education focus has moved to Cork with the fabulous new National Maritime College in Ringaskiddy, but for that low period in Irish maritime life in the mid 20th century, one of the few keepers of the flame was Captain Tom Walsh who operated the little Nautical College in this fairly inconspicuous Office of Public Works building now hidden away behind the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club.
Captain Tom Walsh in teaching mode in 1957 in the INSS building when it was the Nautical College.
The 110ft barquentine which Jack Tyrrell designed for Captain Tom Walsh's Nautical College in 1954 in the hope that it would inspire the building of an Irish Tall Ship
It was the gallant Captain Walsh who in 1954 commissioned Jack Tyrrell of Arklow to design a 110ft sailing ship – a barquentine – to be Ireland's very own tall ship, our first sailing training vessel. God bless the good captain, but he was convinced that if he could just get someone in Government to see these inspiring plans, then such a ship would be on the way.
You can imagine just how far such a visionary idea travelled in the deadly dull Ireland of the 1950s. Far from getting a proper training ship built, Captain Walsh had enough trouble keeping his college in being. Yet he was a gentleman and enthusiast to the end, and after retirement he augmented his pension by testing compasses in yachts, which I remember well as he did it for me with a little cruiser in 1981. The only mutually convenient time it could be done was on a Saturday evening, and I'd to get the boat from Howth to Dun Laoghaire to do it, but the actual swinging of the compass by Tom Walsh was such a pleasant and educational experience that any thoughts of being at some Saturday night party were entirely banished.
So when you go into the main premises of the Irish National Sailing School today, it's natural to remember Captain Tom Walsh, and I like to think that he would thoroughly approve of the old building's current usage, for Alistair Rumball and his team are mighty busy during what must sometimes be an 18-hour day, and just this week – before the sailing season is really fully under way – Monday was typical, with 185 schoolkids bussed down from Maynooth for a day's coaching afloat, followed by all sorts of gatherings including a committee meeting of the newly-formed Irish National Sailing Club.
Space is so constrained that a floating dinghy park has to be used to store the smaller craft. Photo: W M Nixon
Thanks to the special INSS fendering devised by Arthur Rumball, this 35-year-old Squib has survived many seasons of tough teaching in good order. Photo: W M Nixon
To economise on space, the Squibs berthed here, with the INSS building in the background, are double-moored. Photo: W M Nixon
Of which more anon, for this bare outline gives only a hint of the INSS's complex programme. The Rumball theme is that you have to keep operations and facilities flexible to cope with fluctuating demand, for at the height of the season the school is operating a fleet of 200 boats ranging from kayaks through sailing dinghies of increasing size, then on into keelboats of which some well-fendered Squibs are the workhorses while 1720s provide the glamour input, and finally at the top of the tree there's the Reflex 38 Lynx, bought from Galway this past winter, and becoming part of a programme headed by Alistair's son Kenneth – a Silver Youth Medallist in the 420 – who is now a fully-qualified offshore racing pro teacher, but also races the 1720s while being main operations director of a school which has five full–time employees, but in all has sixty staff at the height of the season.
The latest addition to the INSS fleet is the Reflex 38 Lynx, seen here racing for NUI Galway during the Round Ireland. In 2015, Lynx has already scored a second overall in ISORA racing skippered by Kenneth Rumball.
Brothers in business – seen here with his brother Alistair, Arthur Rumball (left) runs the often very busy INSS boat maintenance facility. Photo: W M Nixon
As to shoreside facilities, each summer they set up an additional seasonal summer base to the west of the West Pier with top-of the-line Portakabins at Salthill to provide facilities for those sailing dinghies and kayaks, and in addition the INSS have their own boat-maintenance unit under Arthur Rumball beside the boatyard in the Coal Harbour.
So an impressive amount of things have happened since 1978, the best of them surely being that Alistair persuaded Muriel, a country girl from one of the most beautiful parts of County Carlow, to marry him. For Muriel is a teacher by profession, and adept at being the peace-maker who smooths the waters after Alistair has been making waves, which even now still seems to be just about all the time.
That said, he gives the impression of having so many chips on his shoulder about the perceived opposition to his ventures by those in authority that you begin to think it might be just a bit of an act, for underneath it all he has a heart of gold, yet with the spirit of a lion who will fight the good fight to defend his territory and the interests of his family, friends, trainees and businesses.
The quality of the man was well revealed when the economic recession struck. At the height of the boom years, the Irish National Sailing School had a throughput of more than 2,500 people per month coming new to sailing, and it had become a vibrant and trendy part of the recreational fabric of good-time Dublin. Then around 2008, the economy went into free-fall. But the INSS survived both by making severe cutbacks in everything, and utilising another string in Alistair's bow.
Because of his ready enthusiasm to undertake just about everything and anything to do with boats, back in 1982 he'd looked after some waterborne scenes with classic small craft for the Channel 4 TV comedy-drama series The Irish RM, starring Peter Bowles and Bryan Murray, which went out between 1983 and 1985. It was grand at the time, but thirty years down the line it now seems to have a dose and more of the Paddywhackery about it. However, that was neither here nor there for Alistair Rumball in 1982, for it gave him a lucrative little sideline, and over the years since he has been the man to go to if you want to set up boats and sailing ship scenes in the Irish movie-making business.
So it's ironic, when we remember that Malahide was where the rather mouldy old Vikings of Dublin made their last base after their city had been captured by the Normans in 1171, that it should be a Malahide boy who has emerged as the behind-the-scenes captain of ships for the filming of the blockbuster series Vikings.
When you've spent most of your working life teaching people to sail, tutoring Thespian Viking crewmen on a Wicklow lake is just an ordinary part of another day at the office.
It has all been happening for some years now up in the Wicklow mountains and out on the Wicklow lakes, which have passed themselves off very well as Norwegian fjords, yet can double quite effectively as the coastal and riverside scenery of the many places where the Norwegian Vikings wreaked mayhem.
Who knows, but maybe with the passage of time the epic Vikings series will come to be seen as the epitome of Scandiwhackery, but for now, it certainly does the business . For as the Irish economy fell off a cliff, Alistair Rumball soared aloft in creating, managing, and manoeuvring a very authentic and substantial Viking longship flotilla which has provided a proper Tinseltown income to make all things possible, while helping underwrite the future of the Irish National Sailing School.
Lough Dan in County Wicklow - where Erskine Childers first sailed around 1890 – has proved remarkably versatile in providing backgrounds for the Vikings which could either be Norway itself, or else the shores of places they are raiding
But it's extraordinarily demanding and time-consuming work, even if he has a staff of 150 specialists up in the Wicklow hills, and after a year or two it became clear that he was trying to do too much. So four years ago his son Kenneth, who is now 27 and was at the time working as an accountant, moved in to take over the direction of the sailing school, and as the recession has started to recede – last year they had monthly numbers pushing back towards the 2,000 mark - Kenneth's energetic and all-encompassing input is seeing the school increasing the scale of its operations, particularly in what might be called the post-graduate side with the development of 1720s at top race level. Now the acquisition of Lynx has developed things further - she has already made what was a rather hasty debut in the first ISORA of the year, but despite being only minutes out of the box, they placed second overall, and that only by six minutes.
Alistair, Muriel and Kenneth Rumball. Photo: W M Nixon
This placing of racing as a natural part of the INSS syllabus has in turn led to the need for an officially-constituted club to comply with race entry requirements. But in reality the INSS has had a genuine club atmosphere for years, indeed it has more of a truly club-like atmosphere than many a historically-constituted old yacht club. So it was only a formality to bring the Irish National Sailing Club into being in January 201, but it's for real, here's a pic of the Committee of the new club meeting in the old Tom Walsh building on Monday, and if you want to join, it will cost you the outrageous sum of €10.
The committee and school management of the newly-formed Irish National Sailing Club are (left to right) Glyn Williams (foreground), Muriel Rumball, Joan Sheffield, Caroline Herron, Robin Jones, Alistair Rumball, Kenneth Rumball, Garrett O'Malley, Dermot Igoe, Heather Blay and Mary Beck. Photo: W M Nixon
As to how Alistair Rumball views the impending possible re-structuring of Dun Laoghaire as a cruise liner port, with inevitable limitations on the amount of sailing which can take place within the harbour, he is both an idealist and a realist.
Like many of us, he dearly wishes that this splendid granite creation could be seen as a cherished part of our heritage, not as something to be used to generate income to turn a crude profit or even just to pay its own maintenance costs. Rather, we'd ideally like to see it treated as a national asset to provide vital recreational space for everyone afloat and ashore.
But Alistair Rumball senses that the government's determination to use just about everything in public ownership to generate income will win the day, and he is already being realistic about what the regular if summer-emphasised arrival of cruise liners will mean.
In fact, he may even derive a certain sardonic satisfaction from seeing the Dun Laoghaire sailing establishment having to contemplate accepting conditions with which his school has complied ever since he began operating it.
"People should realise" he asserts, "that there are already two clearly-define shipping channels in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. One is from the harbour entrance to St Michael's Wharf, which will simply be retained if the cruise liners come. The other, much less widely known, is supposed to be from the harbour entrance to the berth at the Band Stand on the East Pier. Even at present, you are not meant to operate under sail in either of those channels, but an awful lot of boats do so."
"However, as we are a commercial operation, we have a strict policy of complying with regulations and carrying out our sail training and teaching operations in the western part of the harbour, clear of the main channel. So a cruise liner should not affect our in-harbour activities, while our larger craft going out into the bay will have to comply with shipping regulations in the entrance like everyone else".
Whatever happens, we may be sure that the Irish National Sailing School and the Irish National Sailing Club - and their splendid founder - will continue to be a thorn in the side of those who take themselves too seriously and have an inflated idea of their own importance. But if you've never been in a boat before and know nobody in sailing, yet feel a growing enthusiasm to go sailing in Dun Laoghaire, you now know where to go to experience the real thing.
The other side of the INSS show – a Viking ship looking good on Lough Dan
#fireball – The 44th hosting of the Frostbites by Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club was brought to a close yesterday with the prize-giving for the Series taking place in the clubhouse.
Racing had been programmed for the day, but an adverse forecast, which manifested itself with a very windy seascape saw the racing cancelled by Facebook notification late in the morning and N over A flying from the clubhouse flagpole.
DMYC Commodore, Kevin Burke, opened proceedings by recording a vote of thanks on behalf of DMYC and the competitors to Olivier Proveur for the successful completion of another Series and for the time and effort he puts in to organising the Series.
Kevin also advised the audience gathered in the clubhouse that DMYC is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and indicated that there will be a variety of celebrations throughout the year. Additionally, on the weekend of 27/28 June, the club will host a celebratory regatta in tandem with Dublin Bay Sailing Club who manage the racing on Dublin Bay over the summer months. In his closing remarks, Kevin drew attention to the range in age of the Frostbite participants – from Olivier's 12-year old son, Oisin, to Louis Smyth in the Fireballs.
Olivier took over the microphone from Kevin and said how pleasing it was to see the Frostbite fleet grow again this year. Involved since 2000, when he took over from Valerie Kinnear, Olivier advised that this year the Frostbites had an entry of 103 boats in total. This year a number of changes had been implemented resulting in four separate starts. He suggested that the weather had not been as kind to them as in recent years with only 18 races completed – not 18 Sundays. Series 1 had only five races, from the first Sunday of November to the last Sunday before Christmas. He also asked the competitors to acknowledge the volunteer core of the Frostbites and proceeded to list 18 people ranging from the Race Officer, Kevin Cullen, through timekeepers, recorders, mark-layers and rescue personnel. Two people were given special mention – Dave Coleman (Fireballs) who hadn't missed a single Sunday of the Series as a rib driver and Bob Hobby who, in addition to mark-laying duties posted photographs of each Sunday's proceedings to Facebook. Photographs from the Frostbites have been viewed by 3,460 people. The closing thanks went to DMYC's boatman Richard who prepares all the equipment for each Sunday's racing and Fiona and Carlos in the clubhouse who look after everyone post-racing with soup and a bar service.
The prize-giving then took place with two sets of prizes for each class – Series 2 and the overall Series. For the Fireballs Series 2 was another close run affair for the first two boats overall. As the individual reports for the races have advised, the distance between Messrs Butler and Rumball was never very much apart from one exception that comes to mind. They seemed to be in a constant state of watching out for the other boat!
DMYC Frostbites: Series 2; 13 Races sailed, 3 Discards.
1 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram 15061 National Yacht Club &
2 Kenneth Rumball & Brian Byrne 15058 Irish National Sailing Club 17
3 Neil Colin & Margaret Casey 14775 Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club 45
4 Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly 14713 Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club 47
5 Louise McKenna & Hermine O'Keeffe 14691 Royal St. George Yacht Club 52
In terms of the overall Frostbite title, the gap between the first two boats was a bit more pronounced, courtesy of a perfect Series 1 for Rumball & Byrne that saw them undefeated over the five-race series. And this performance is what probably set them up for the overall title.
DMYC Frostbites; Overall; 18 Races sailed, 5 Discards.
1 Kenneth Rumball & Brian Byrne 15058 INSC 17
2 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram 15061 NYC/DMYC 23
3 Conor & James Clancy 15113 RStGYC 58
4 Neil Colin & Margaret Casey 14775 DMYC 61
5 Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly 14713 DMYC 62
The 1-2-3 overall received plaques which made reference to the 50th anniversary of the DMYC.
On completion of the prize-giving, Pat Shannon and Jonathan O'Rourke of the Dublin Bay Sailing Club give a very short presentation on DBSC's plans for the summer's racing – new classes/starts, new courses, more midweek races and a plan for 18 nights of Tuesday racing and 20 Saturdays of afternoon racing. There is an undertaking to provide more races with quicker turnaround times between races. Entry fees for the DBSC have been reduced and online entry will now be accessible. DBSC gets underway on 23rd April 2015.
For the Fireball fleet, there is now a break from the on-the-water activities. A class rule change allows for the removal of 3kg of lead weight corrector form the boats and this has resulted in the Irish Class setting up a "weighing day" for the fleet on 18th April. The consequence of this activity is that boats will have to be stored under dry conditions in advance of the weigh-in. A separate notification has gone out from the committee in this regard. Immediately after this session, we have a UK Fireballer undertaking a coaching session, the following weekend, April 25/26th.
Summer regattas are scheduled for May (Skerries), June (Cushendall), July (Dunmore East), September (Lough Ree) and October (Dun Laoghaire). Interspersed with these Class events there is the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta (9 – 12 July) and the Fireball Worlds (15 – 30 August, Pwllheli, Wales, with an International Week beforehand). Fireballers should also be aware of a Dinghy Week type event in Cork from 21 – 23 August.
#dmyc – Dominic O'Keefe's Graduate, a J80 class yacht, was the IRC winner of class 2 in the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club's (DMYC) Summer Regatta on Saturday. Second was William Despard's Blakc Sheep from the National Yacht Club. The regatta attracted a strong turn out in most classes despite a clash with the 36–boat Round Ireland Race from Wicklow.
In the dinghy classes, two more Royal Irish sailors took honours in the single–handed Laser class. Paul Keane won from Justin Maguire in a four boat fleet over two races.
In the eight boat Ruffian class, Michael Cutliffe was the winner of a two race event from Frank Bradley's Ripples, both of the host club.
Regatta results supplied by DMYC are downloadable below as a zip file. The results can be opened with ms word, notepad or wordpad
#frostbites – It my have been sailing as usual in Kinsale yesterday but the Frostbites in Dun Laoghaire Harbour fell victim to adverse weather again with strong gusty winds initiating the flying of "N over A" from the yard-arm of the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club (DMYC). Yet again, the forecast was foul for both Saturday and Sunday with Met Eireann predicting up to Force 10 for Saturday moderating to Force 6 to 7 on Sunday. XC Weather wasn't offering anything more attractive!
What made the conditions deceptive was that it was bright with a blue sky over Dublin Bay. However, the first tell-tale sign that sailing was in jeopardy was when I came out of Foxrock Church on Sunday morning and couldn't see any keelboats out. A quick visit to the harbour revealed that the wind was whistling in the rigging – never the most comfortable sound in the dinghy park.
A quick consultation with my helm, Louis Smyth, by phone saw us agree that racing would be a marginal call and so we decided that we would exercise the option of watching rugby from Paris.
A second visit to the harbour later in the afternoon revealed the "N over A" scenario but by that stage the conditions were more favourable – so much so that training sessions for Optimists and Laser Radials were underway inside the harbour.
#dlharbour – Dun Laoghaire's waterfront area and harbour is a hotbed of development and proposed projects. W M Nixon takes an outsider's view of what might be happening around Ireland's biggest sailing centre.
Your heart would go out to Dun Laoghaire. The perceptions which emerge from proposals for developments and new businesses along the waterfront definitely don't chime at all with the image of a place which once was known as Kingstown, and has its origins in the heights of gentility and middle class refinement.
What are we folk from other ports to make of it all? We find sailing in through the entrance to savour Dun Laoghaire harbour's unique style a wonderful experience. There is nowhere quite like it, not just in Ireland, but anywhere else in the world. Yet rumours fly around about changes which could seriously impair the special character of the place. What are those of us who may not have the inside track on the true nature of actual and anticipated developments along the waterfront to make of it all?
Not to pull the punches, it seems that the Dun Laoghaire waterfront area is going to have an enlarged halting site for the Travelling community down towards the west pier. It's going to have an "urban beach" resort amenity for the sort of people who use such places within the harbour on the inner end of the east pier, thereby blocking off a very useful berthing space. And it's going to have the Dublin area's first Wetherspoon's super-pub right bang in the middle of the harbourside.
Set against Dun Laoghaire history and the elegant appearance of its better buildings, this would all seem bad enough. But that is to ignore the most enormous elephant in the room. This is the new public library, which has been put up with astonishing speed to block out much of the sea view from the Royal Marine Hotel. It towers over the entire waterfront with a prow which suggests that at last Ireland has her first aircraft carrier. But unfortunately for any strategic purposes and rapid peace-keeping in distant parts of the world, it happens to be very landbound in the midst of mostly pleasant smaller buildings which now seem utterly dwarfed.
It's behind you!!!........ The new Dun Laoghaire library looms over everything on the waterfront. Yet if you're in the National YC (foreground) and looking out to sea, you don't know it's there. Photo: W M Nixon
It would indeed be wonderful if it were an aircraft carrier and could put to sea and leave the town to nurture something of its own true character. But instead we have to learn to live with it while wondering what it's all about, though in fairness it should be mentioned that the first notions of it were to provide a structure to match the sky-scraping Daniel Liebeskind building (remember that?) which once upon a time was planned for the Carlisle Pier just across the way.
But if this is indeed a public library, then we can only conclude that the good people of Dun Laoghaire must do an awful lot of reading, for it's HUGE. And we can only fear that if they read with the assiduity this building suggests, then they'll have neither time nor energy for anything else, not even the seagoing pursuits which the possession of one of the finest artificial harbours in the world should encourage.
From Dun Laoghaire's traditional promenading area of the East Pier, the new library building towers in particular over the National Yacht Club. Of course, if you're in that most hospitable club and looking out to sea, you're blissfully unaware of this enormous presence behind you. But the effect on people coming in from seaward is distinctly oppressive - it's like that giant black space craft which hovered over New York in the movie Independence Day.
Dun Laoghaire in the rare ould times, when you'd a real sea view from the Royal Marine Hotel, and from the pier could admire that splendid establishment in all its glory. Photo courtesy NYC.
The same section of waterfront today. Is this progress? Photo: W M Nixon
Until this thing appeared, there were still some relics of ould decency and architectural harmony along the Dun Laoghaire waterfront and the streets immediately behind it. Any significant building is a statement in itself, so we're entitled to look at buildings as they are, and respond to them. The central gem of the waterfront is the railway station, designed by John Skipton Mulvany. It's a perfect little jewel of neo-classical design, and to my mind makes a much pleasanter architectural statement than that other exercise in classical work, the Casino at Marino, which was fussily built as an architectural exercise, whereas Dun Laoghaire station is both functional and beautiful, well fulfilling its contemporary role as a stylish restaurant.
Dun Laoghaire's Mulvany-designed station is a gem. Photo: W M Nixon
Dun Laoghaire did very well out of John Skipton Mulvany, as in 1851 he created the design for the Royal Irish Yacht Club building. In terms of Irish history, few buildings are so significant in the very fact and timing of their construction. Originally founded in 1831, the Royal Irish had been overshadowed by its brasher younger sister, the Royal St George YC founded 1838. While the George developed rapidly as the exclusive preserve of the land-owning classes and the most prosperous Protestant business magnates – the offspring of Cromwellian land-grabbers and the Jamesons and Guinnesses, in other words – the RIYC, as a club with some of the older traditions in its makeup, went into a decline which was accelerated by the grievous effects of the Great Famine from 1845 onwards.
Thus when a meeting of several RIYC members – their numbers including Daniel O'Connell the Liberator - was held in a Dublin hotel on 4th July 1846 (American Independence Day by design, one presumes), it was in the hope that the club could be revived as an expression of faith in the future, and they agreed that a new landmark building on the waterfront would be the key to this.
The landward side of the Royal Irish YC. With the undeveloped nature of the waterfront, the architect had to design a building which presented a proper facade on all fronts. Photo W M Nixon
The Royal Irish YC seen across the marina. Built 1851, it is the world's oldest complete purpose-designed yacht club building. Photo: W M Nixon
So in responding to the RIYC's impressive neo-classical pavilion on the harbour, we are looking at both the world's first complete purpose-built yacht club house, and the very symbol of a nation beginning the long road to recovery from both the Famine and centuries of conquest and despoliation.
Along the waterfront, the Royal St George clubhouse by contrast was built through frequent expansions, but as Mulvany was also involved in some of the stages, it has a fine sense of completeness despite its several creators in different eras. Facing up to the challenge of matching these two classical buildings on the waterfront to the west was clearly an insuperable task, so when the National Yacht Club came into being as the Edward Yacht Club in 1870, it went for a much more under-stated architectural style. There's something attractively of the shooting and fishing lodge of the west of Ireland about it, it seems modest by comparison with the other two clubhouses, yet it's surprisingly roomy and stylish within.
Although it was built in several stages, today the Royal St George YC presents a complete appearance, and it preserves its sense of identity despite the encroachment of much taller modern buildings nearby. Photo: David O'Brien
All three of the big waterfront clubhouses are immaculately maintained and each brings its own injection of vitality – and substantial employment – to Dun Laoghaire. And the town in turn has developed in concert with the growth of maritime activity, and the increased communication with Dublin brought about by the historic railway (which was opened in 1834) and frequent road improvements, while summertime excursion steamers sailed to the harbour from Dublin port.
Some would compare the stylish seaside town for Dublin which tried to develop at Dun Laoghaire with Brighton in its relationship with London. But Brighton was purely a seaside resort in which the recent marina is an add-on, it's not a harbour which is central to the place. Dun Laoghaire by contrast is all about the harbour. There was virtually nothing there until this vast asylum and ferry harbour for large vessels (that was its sole original purpose) was built on a totally empty bit of coastline eastward of the old Dunleary harbour, a shallow tidal inlet which it enclosed and whose existence is remembered in the area's local name The Gut.
The coast at Dun Laoghaire before the harbour was built. The harbour of Old Dunleary, in the area still known as The Gut, was a shallow creek in the southwest corner of the new harbour.
First plan for the new harbour in 1817. The entrance was made wider in the finished version, and the West Pier was built further west to enclose the Old Dunleary harbour
The first regatta in the new harbour was sailed on July 22nd 1828, and was won by Liberty (on right, 39 tons, owner Lord Errol) from Medora (45 tons, owner Mr Kelly). The Royal Irish YC emerged in 1831 from this event.
The yachtsman's Dun Laoghaire today, as shown in the ICC Sailing Directions. Courtesy Irish Cruising Club
Thus it may be stretching it a bit, but the most telling comparison for Dun Laoghaire's aspirations might well be Trieste on the Adriatic. In the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Trieste was Vienna-on-Sea. The distance from the capital may have been enormous by comparison with the short hop from Dublin out to Dun Laoghaire. But Emperors – even ancient Hapsburg ones – could move mountains and shorten apparent distance, and they could ensure that the distance to Trieste was no barrier to the place having a Viennese atmosphere, style and sense of place.
Those who find such an idea crazy might like to remember that your man Von Trapp, he of Sound of Music fame, was in real life an officer in the post–imperial Austrian Navy. Trieste was for real. So in a sense if we wanted to see what Dun Laoghaire in its burgeoning Kingstown days was trying to become, just think of it as Official & Ceremonial Dublin-on-Sea. Thus the buildings tried to be slightly miniaturised versions of impressive buildings of government in the city itself, and for a while they succeeded.
The Town Hall gets the attention it deserves. Photo: W M Nixon
The Town Hall, for instance, is a delight – to me it speaks as a restrained exercise in Italianate Victorian, and were it facing onto a proper town square, we really would have a space to celebrate. And just along from it in the town in its glory days was the unsullied façade of the Royal Marine Hotel. French chateau, I would say, and all the better for it. But another enjoyer of architecture was suggesting the other night that there was more than a hint of the south German schloss in it, so we agreed that it was either French or German depending on which country had won the most recent little war over Alsace and Lorraine.
The Royal Marine Hotel has a distinctive style which unfortunately was not replicated in the extension on the right, which was added several decades ago. Photo: W M Nixon
Whatever, the Dun Laoghaire waterfront at the height of the late Victorian-Edwardian era really was quite something. There were several different styles of architecture, but mostly they were good examples of their type, and all respected each other. It had a sense of completeness which harmonised with the harbour. But since then we seem to have lost the plot. Is there an element of disliking the built symbols of the past, and therefore sticking up something which is effectively a deliberate affront?
Perhaps it's just that architects are scared stiff of being accused of producing new buildings, or extensions to buildings, which are merely pastiches of what went before, despite the fact that the general public seem more than happy with a good pastiche. And surely it's better to have a good pastiche than a bad bit of pseudo-modern design which clashes with everything about it?
Thus the harmonious Dun Laoghaire waterfront of a century ago, as seen from within the harbour or down the piers, is now giving out conflicting messages which dampen the sense of welcome for those entering the port. The stately Royal Marine Hotel, a bit pretentious in its day perhaps, but nevertheless true to itself, was given an addition on its western side which, unusually, still hasn't mellowed in – it continues to look like a bad example of architecture from a particularly poor period.
As for that wonderful Town Hall, the office block added down one side is better than the addition to the Royal Marine, but it has lost the opportunity to make a statement of harmony on the building's north side facing across to the railway station. And as for what could have been a town square in front of the Town Hall (for which we argued in favour in several issues of Afloat magazine a very long time ago) that was filled with the Pavilion Development which, while built with quality materials, has never seemed to quite know what it is supposed to be doing. You could scarcely claim it to be a runaway commercial success, and as ever in Dublin, it was the residential part of the project which provided the real motor for the exercise.
But those residential blocks in turn intruded on the vital miniature parkland and garden in front of the Royal Marine Hotel. Now that glorious sea view from the Royal Marine is being further impaired by the new library. In fact, "impaired" is scarcely the word. The Royal Marine doesn't really have a sea view any more at all, in the sense that rooms at the front had a view clear out into the open waters of St George's Channel. Strictly speaking, all that the Royal Marine can now look forward to is a harbour and bay view, which is rather different. Much better than many Dublin hotels, perhaps, but a poor thing by comparison with the wide nautical vistas of the past.
Artists's computerised impression of how the view of the Royal Marine hotel will look once the new library (left) is completed
As for this new library, doubtless in the architectural trade it will be seen as an impressive use of new materials, and it will be pointed out how skilfully it has been fitted into a narrow space. But the computer-generated impressions of the finished building show something a little too like a Belfast peace wall to bring joy to the heart, and on its east side – the hidden side looming over many residential properties – they seem to be utilising rather a lot of nasty red brick, something which is otherwise almost entirely unused anywhere else on the Dun Laoghaire waterfront.
But while the new library may seem to roar at its neighbours and loom threateningly over them, not every new development along the Dun Laoghaire waterfront provokes hostility. For instance, the new Irish lights headquarters is so good of its type that it greatly enhances the area. And as for the Ferry Terminal, "reasonably good of its sort" might be the kindest response. Something had to be provided to give a positive architectural response to the very new-style HSS ferries, and when there's one in port it's sometimes difficult to tell where ship ends and ferry terminal begins, which is as it should be.
It just shows what you can do by really trying, and being brave. The impressive Irish Lights headquarters building. Photo: W M Nixon
But the era of very high speed ferries may be drawing to a close, as the shipping companies gravitate towards a new generation of ships which may not be so utterly fast, but are much quicker than the boats the HSS replaced, and provide a level of on-board comfort which makes the little extra time aboard slip easily by.
With economy measures now totally dominant, the lower berthing prices and much greater available berthing options offered by Dublin Port offset the fact the driving through the hinterland of the Port to the ferry terminals is not really a joyous urban experience. Most car-ferry passengers are prepared to tolerate a level of urban and sub-industrial blight in order to get cheap fares and frequency of service.
But where the ferries move away as they appear to be doing from Dun Laoghaire, it seems the cruise liners want to move in. The cruise liners currently can berth alongside in Dublin Port, but have to lie off in Dublin Bay if they want to send their passengers directly by tender into Dun Laoghaire. But for the cruise liners and their guests, the prospect of Dun Laoghaire becoming a proper cruise liner port is positively mouth-watering.
At the moment, the only access the passengers on large cruise liners have to Dun Laoghaire is via the ship's tenders to this landing pontoon in the Inner Harbour. Photo: W M Nixon
For when it fulfils its potential, Dun Laoghaire is a place of style and fun, an ideal up-market cruise liner destination. Simply being there in a luxurious cruise liner would be enough in itself on a sunny day with the harbour and waterfront alive with people enjoying themselves. And the ready access to Dublin itself, and the Garden of Ireland in Wicklow, is all a bonus.
But such perfection won't come cheap. For sure, if it comes to fruition the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Masterplan of two years ago, indicating a large cruise liner berth to the west of the present ferry terminal, would indeed provide the Harbour Company with a golden source of income. But whether that income can be transferred onwards to traders in the town is another matter.
The initial plan of two years ago for a Cruise Liner berth within Dun Laoghaire Harbour. While it will restrict some sailing and boating space within the harboiur, new space will be created by the removal of the moorings in the East Pier bight. Note the proposed swimming pool indicated at the time at right angles to the East Pier off the National YC (bottom right) with marina berths within a new breakwater.
Cruise liner passengers are notorious for seeking complete packages beforehand. Thus when they arrive in port they expect shore visits to be part of the deal, and they prefer to move in pre-paid groups ashore, rather than move individually and spend some money in the town. So those who would expect across-the-board benefit may be disappointed. They may find that the cruise liner seen as the goose that lays the golden does indeed squat down, almost taking over the entire harbour, and it does indeed lay a golden egg. But that golden egg is only a fat berthing fee for the harbour company and hire fees for some bus company. Beyond that, expenditure can very limited.
Yet there's no denying the real money that be made out of berthing fees, and that of course will percolate into the town in the form of wages for extra waterfront staff. Who knows, they may even have to find a crew for a designated Dun Laoghaire harbour tug or two, though a state-of-the-art cruise liner is computer controlled by a single joystick activating thrusters working every which way, and it's amazing the spaces they can access without tugboat aid. That said, in the event of a rare summertime nor'east gale, you could sell tickets for the end of the pier to watch a giant liner getting out.
But this is all way in the future, though with every step in the economic recovery, that future is accelerating in its approach. For the moment, we can be sure that markers are being put down for future harbour use, and the word is that all the swinging moorings in the east bight of the harbour are going to be cleared, presumably to allow eventual manoeuvring space within that part of the harbour for liners. As that space will be empty when no liner is moving, its possible availability will partly compensate for the inevitable loss of sailing and boating space within the harbour, which is a proper concern of Water Wag sailors, inshore rowing clubs, and the increasing number of sailing schools.
A newer line on the grapevine has it that one of the yacht clubs outside the current marina, currently concerned about members losing those mooring in the eastern bight, has negotiated exclusive rights for its members to the stand-alone marina pontoons in the northwest part of the harbour inside the northern marina breakwater, those berths to be accessed by a regular ferry service from the club in question.
While seeing the logic of this, it would put paid to a crazy little notion of mine. Until this new allocation arose, it had seemed to me that there was potential for a completely new club, with its headquarters way down the West Pier where it meets outer marina breakwater. This new club would have its own direct access to that northwest part of the marina. The wild West Pier – which some would like to se as a kind of nature reserve – has ample room for both a roadway to this new clubhouse, and the existing walkway right out to the lighthouse. It would be one of the few clubs in Ireland to be south-facing, and its location would certainly provide that sense of being away from it all which is supposed to be what going sailing is all about.
The wild West Pier. Were it needed, there is plenty of space for both a walkway and a roadway. Photo: W M Nixon
But that little daydream is now gone with the likelihood of a rapid ferry service from a club to the northwest Marina pontoons. Meanwhile, back in the real world, what is happening to preserve or destroy Dun Laoghaire's unique ambience which will, it's hoped, encourage Cruise Liner Companies to fork out mega-bucks to berth there?
If you look carefully at the Masterplan, you'll see that in front of the National YC there's a blue pool indicated at right angles to the East Pier. At the time, this was envisaged as a swimming pool and lido area in a vast barge, and it seemed a reasonable idea, as within it there were indicated new marina berths within convenient reach of the club.
But a recent planning application by the Harbour Company has put a different spin on all this. The new "urban beach" will be on a floating structure paralleling the East Pier alongside that handy berthing area on the East Pier. A cost of €2.5 million is being quoted as the capital expenditure needed to create this new facility, and the spokesmen for the harbour company are confident it will attract enough high-paying customers to pay off the initial cost while covering the significant running costs.
That's as may be, but this large intrusion into valuable berthing space is also a matter of concern for those who have been campaigning long and hard for the restoration of the nearby disused Dun Laoghaire Baths, which are outside the harbour area and therefore wouldn't reduce any valuable berthing space. But in any case they're in a deplorable state of dilapidation, a danger and an eyesore, so some action is urgently needed. There's a Public Meeting on today (Saturday January 25th) about all this in the Kingston Hotel in Dun Laoghaire at 3.0pm, and it will be interesting to hear what people think about the old baths in relation to the proposed new urban beach.
The English pub chain J D Wetherspoon have indicated their intention of opening in the former Forty Foot premises on the top of the Pavilion. Photo: W M Nixon
We move along the waterfront to the Pavilion, and the former Forty Foot pub. It's as near as certain going to be the Dublin area's first J D Wetherspoon pub. You'll have heard of them as the people in England who already have a chain of 900 pubs, and have just opened the first ever pub at motorway service area, which one would have thought unthinkable, but such seems to be the case. Anyway, big chief Tim Martin and his efficient team running this outfit have decided the time is now ripe to move into Ireland with its many post-Tiger era bankrupted bars.
And they make no secret of their intentions. Their ideal location, they say, is large premises in a strongly working class area. Good for them, you say, but who on earth reckons Dun Laoghaire to be a strongly working class area? Well, 900 successful pubs across England can't be wrong. And it could well be what the Pavilion needs to come to life, even if it's not quite what posh passengers on a cruise liner might expect. But as for resentment that an English pub chain is moving into Ireland, the reality is that your favourite local, after a tricky time emerging from the aftermath of the boom years, is now probably owned by a German bank anyway.
It's one very crowded little spot already. The Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club, the Coastguard, and the Irish National Sailing School are among those crowded into the southwest corner of the harbour where a new Halting Site is also planned. Photo: W M Nixon
Concluding with our third opening point, the proposed new halting site towards the West Pier is a tricky one. That corner of the harbour has a small long-established site, presumably the new one will be much bigger. And things are already very crowded down there with the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club on the sea side of the little quayside street, and the premises of the Irish National Sailing School, the Irish Coastguard and others across the narrow road.
The business of Traveller Halting Sites is a difficult one, but doubtless Dun Laoghaire can cope in its own way. After all, the harbour area already has several locations which look after the needs of people who have immediate access to unexpectedly large sums of ready money, people who also have a strange taste for drinking alcohol in the open air even when the weather is atrocious, people moreover who enjoy moving about all the time in uncomfortably confined damp spaces in close proximity with like-minded ruddy-faced folk. It's just that they're not called Halting Sites. They're called Yacht Clubs.
Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company CEO Gerry Dunne responds to this article here.
#dmyc – Sir Bob Geldof will present an award made in memory of his late father to an outstanding junior sailor in Dun Laoghaire next month. The 'Bob Geldof Spirit of Sailing Award' for outstanding junior sailors will be presented at the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club (DMYC) where Bob senior was a founder member, on Saturday, July 21st next.