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Viking Marine is taking pre-orders for the Official Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Helly Hansen Regatta Clothing. Items ordered by Friday 14th June can have their boat name and sail no screen-printed or embroidered on the gear but get those orders in fast please as the countdown is on.

Jackets, mid-layers, T Shirts and caps are online and in store at the Dun Laoghaire Chandlery.

Order online here

Published in Viking Marine
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In the years to come, Thursday, April 4th 2019 will be remembered as a pivotal date in the development of Dun Laoghaire Harbour as a maritime, recreational and community amenity, a key moment in the significant growth of a shared attitude by the town, the harbour, and the sailing and boating community towards this unique facility’s future writes W M Nixon.

The occasion was the public announcement in the National Maritime Museum of everything that that this year’s Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2019 (it’s from July 11th to 14th) will bring to participants and townsfolk alike. But it was also used by officialdom - in the persons of Government Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, and Councillor Ossian Smyth, An Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown – as the high-profile occasion when a shared vision towards the civilised recreational development and wider use of the harbour for broader community benefit became further enshrined as official government and local authority policy.

oconnor thomas2Key speakers – Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD with Volvo Car Ireland’s David Thomas. The Minister took the opportunity at the launch of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2019 to move forward official policy on the use of Dun Laoghaire Harbour as a community-beneficial amenity. Photo: Fotosail/Gareth Craig

The change in official attitude has been developing for some time now. But Thursday night marked a very clear and positive tipping point. much of the planning is still at a very early stage. Indeed, much of it is still in the minds of participants in unofficial think tanks who were very much present as enthusiastic individuals at Thursday night’s gathering. But there are many hurdles to clear and schemes to fully develop before the new approach and its projects can be jointly revealed in any final and official way.

So, for now, we can only say that it was a marvellous occasion, with the changed official attitude and the many new ideas inducing an attitude of optimism, enthusiasm and energy which brought the Museum to life in a way seldom if ever seen before, and it provided a very effective launch pad for VDLR 2019.

collen group3Collen Construction has continued their sponsorship for the Dun Laoghaire Regatta, and it has also been revealed that they will also be supporting the campaigns of Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy. In the photo are (left to right) Tommy Drumm, Neil Collen, Pamela Collen, and Declan Maguire (all Collen Construction), Councillor Ossian Smyth (An Cathaoirleach, Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown), Barry King and Martin McCarthy (Commodore, National YC). Photo Fotosail/Gareth Craig

When the Official Launching of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 was staged at the same venue in April two years ago, Ireland’s lively Springtime weather treated us to a downpour of Biblical proportions. Puddles formed where puddles had never formed before. Known puddles became lakes. Yet the show went on in style with a large attendance.

And when the event itself rolled up in July 2017 with a fleet of 488 boats, we were rewarded with perfect regatta conditions – summer breezes which held up in Dublin Bay and the extended racing area, with wind directions and sailing circumstances which favoured in-harbour finishes and total regatta conditions to highlight the harbour’s Bicentenary Celebrations, rounded out by warm summer evenings to facilitate al fresco parties along a buzzing waterfront.

peggy bawn myfanwy4Perfect regatta conditions – the post-race mood starts to develop in 2017 for Hal Sisk’s Peggy Bawn of 1894 vintage (left) and Rob Mason’s 1897-built Myfanwy. Photo: W M Nixon
So when, at the beginning of this week, it looked as though Thursday evening’s official launching of VDLR 2019 in the same august setting was going to be threatened by the possibility of a brief but unseasonal flurry of sleet and snow, it was accepted with equanimity. Bring it on, was the attitude. “It can only mean even better weather in July than there was in 2017 ” – that was the official approach……

In fact, being at sea level we avoided the sleet and snow, but beforehand there was rain in abundance with the additional threatened joys of severe hailstorms and possible thunder. Yet once you were safely within the venue’s special ambience, with the Museum’s well-conserved 1887 Dublin Bay Water Wag in pride of place to honour the Harbour’s remarkable and magnificent sailing history, it was like being transformed into summer - the place was heaving with sailing, maritime and harbour enthusiasts in profusion, and when those clearly official statements were made from the stage, the mood became turbo-powered.

crowd scene5Never mind the weather outside, in the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire the mood was one of friendship and optimism as plans for the regatta and the harbour’s future was revealed. Photo: Gareth Craig/Fotosail

We’d gone into the convivial gathering knowing that entries already stood at 410 boats, a really solid entry basis when we remember that many local crews – or at least crews within easy reach of Dublin Bay – hold back their entry until they’re more confident about the summer’s developing weather pattern.

This is reflected in the fact that upwards of half of the signed-up entries are visiting craft. More than 70 different sailing clubs are represented, including the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - from which there are currently 111 entries. Within the fleet which finally assembles, there will, of course, be many crewmen from far overseas, while the thriving Hong Kong racing scene will be represented by Jamie McWilliam’s Ker 40 Signal 8, and there’s always a good chance that a French (and other European) boat or two (and possibility more) will emerge to surprise us.

As it is, a strong international flavour in the Rugby sense will attach to the RC 35 Class, which has been going from strength to strength, built around the healthy presence of solid fleets of performance boats plus or minus 35ft LOA in the Clyde, Belfast Lough, Dublin Bay and North Wales. The VDLR 2019 is one of the pillar events in their Celtic Challenge series, and it is no accident that the defending overall champion in the VDLR itself, John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II, comes right from the heart of this hyper-competitive sector.

Joker 2 3784Defending overall champion – John Maybury’s J/109 Joker 2. Photo: VDLR

At the different level of involvement, one of the great successes of 2017 was the Classics and Traditional Division, where the overall winner and deservedly proud awardee of the Kingstown Cup marking the Bicentenary Rob Mason’s own-restored 1897-vintage Myfanwy, a classic 37ft Alexander Richardson design home-ported in Milford Haven.

Myfanwy has since been sold on, bound for the top-end Classics scene in the Mediterranean. But although Rob is now engaged on another major restoration project, the Milford Haven men hope to be back in Dun Laoghaire from southwest Wales, though this time on Andy Whitcher’s superbly-maintained modern classic Cheverton Caravel sloop Fawn.

chris moore pat shannon7A mood of shared optimism – Chris Moore of Dublin Bay SC with Councillor Barry Ward and Pat Shannon of the Royal Irish YC. Photo Fotosail/Gareth Craig
kirwan winkelmann sherry8The future looks good. Ann Kirwan with Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race Chairman Adam Winkelmann and Peter Sherry. Photo Fotosail/Gareth Craig

And Welsh involvement won’t stop there, for addition to the strong RC 35 contingent from North Wales, the Treardur Bay Sailing Club from Anglesey are celebrating their Centenary, and are bringing over fleets of the Seabird Half-Raters (120 years old) and their Myth class dinghies – they’re sea-going 14ft cousins of the Shannon One Designs -which will be celebrating their centenary next year.

In fact, you can find significant anniversaries in classes throughout the fleet, as the ever-elegant always-youthful International Dragons are 90 years old in 2019. But while all these significant dates are of intense interest to those directly involved, for every participant the primary interest is well-organised racing afloat, and shoreside facilities and events which - while pleasantly busy and always friendly and efficient - don’t at any stage find themselves being overwhelmed by the demands of a diverse fleet and its even more diverse crews.

ocarroll dowling9Emma O’Carroll of Volvo Cars Ireland with Ciara Dowling, who has been Regatta Secretary since the VDLR was launched in 2005. Photo: Fotosail/Gareth Craig
This is where the Dublin Bay tradition of voluntary sailing administration comes most strongly to the fore. It’s something found at every centre in Ireland. It’s built into our sailing DNA as it is in other sports. But it’s the sheer numbers which necessarily have to be involved in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Week – 300 at least - that would make this voluntarism most apparent were it not for the fact that it’s done so willingly and with such quiet enthusiasm that participants seem to scarcely notice. But believe me, we are profoundly aware of it, and Organising Committee Chairman Don O’Dowd was graceful in his heartfelt public appreciation of the many – the very many - who help.

In the VDLR context, the main man is the Chairman of the Organising Committee, and we interviewed current incumbent Don O’Dowd of the Royal St George Yacht Club in this blog back on the 16th March, which gave some idea of the background and abilities needed to run this incredible show and keep everyone in a complex harbour town happily on side ashore and afloat.

don odowd10Man of action. Don O’Dowd is never happier than when he’s afloat, whether racing or organising races. But the running of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2019 will involve a continuous round of committee meetings before things finally shape up on the water.
But while that meeting with the Chairman last month was distinctly informal, Thursday night was very much official business, with Government Minister and local TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor heading up a platform party which put sailing in its proper context in Dun Laoghaire and Dublin Bay As Don O’Dowd commented: “Since it first set sail in 2005, Dun Laoghaire Regatta has grown biennially, and showcases the very best of Irish sailing action on the water. With a festival this size, the regatta also adds a lot of shoreside summer colour to Dun Laoghaire. With over 300 sailing races across 30 classes, and 2,500 competitors ranging from Olympic and world-class professionals to weekend sailors, there is a growing acknowledgement of the role of sailing as an economic driver in the harbour town”. The Minister added: “The Regatta has a huge and very welcome sporting, tourism and commercial impact on Dun Laoghaire. The whole town works to make it a success.” “The Regatta brings a significant amount to the local economy. Using the Irish tourism multiplier, the average expenditure per competitor will be €100 per day which for 2,500 competitors will be €250,000 per day and €1,000,000 over four days”.

With facts like that to support her view, the Minister was well placed for her statement of intent regarding a more environment-friendly approach to the future use of the Harbour. And that in turn was supported by Chairman O’Dowd adding: “In an effort to protect our waters, VDLR 2019 are running the event as a Clean Regatta through the international Sailors for the Sea programme, supported by the MaREI Centre, which will see us implementing a number of Clean Regattas Best Practices to reduce our environmental impact."

This news chimed very well with Councillor Ossian Smyth as a leading figure in the Green Party, and provided the framework for his clearly stated determination to support Dun Laoghaire Harbour’s fulfilment of its potential as a real and accessible health benefit for everyone.

Clean waters, clear air – and all within easy reach of an attractive town elegantly set under harmonious hill and mountain slopes, right beside an entertaining capital city. It’s quite a package. So, come July, it will be up to the sailors to do it justice with their eclectic fleet.

RC35 2018 Champion AnimalAnimal, the 2018 RC35 champion. Photo: Marc Turner

As well as Class One, key classes in the line-up include the other IRC rating classes and the RC35s, with a visiting fleet of vintage Half Tonners from Howth contesting Class Two. In addition, One-Design classes will include the Beneteau 31.7s, Beneteau 211, Sigma 33 (celebrating their 40th Anniversary) Ruffian 23s, Howth 17s, Dragons (on their 90th) the RS Elites, who stage their British Championships as part of the VDLR, currently with 34 entries, and the Flying Fifteens.

The Flying Fifteens will have an extra edge as they’re on the countdown to their Worlds at the National YC in September, while the dinghy classes will include the GP14, Wayfarer, Squib, Mermaid, IDRA 14s, and single-handed Lasers and Moths.

dragons dublin bay12The Dragon Class have been in Dublin Bay for more than seventy years, and in 2019 they’re celebrating their 90th Anniversary internationally
And not least of its attractions is value for money. As Don O’Dowd concluded: “The VDLR owes its prominence in international sailing events to a number of factors. One of the core attributes to attracting so many entrants is that it is one of the least expensive sailing events in Europe, thanks to generous sponsorship and support, thereby providing great value for money in a wonderful sailing setting.”

The sponsors are:

  • Volvo Car Ireland in partnership with Spirit Motor Group (Title sponsor)
  • Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council
  • Collen Construction
  • Rationel
  • Helly Hansen
  • Royal Marine Hotel
  • Dubarry
  • UK Sailmakers

The fact that many of them have been with the Regatta since its inception in 2005, and see it as friends as much as sponsors, speaks volumes for the calibre of the key people running the event, and in this context it is appropriate to highlight one very special individual – Brian Craig - whose name briefly came up in another context during what has been one of the busiest weeks in Irish sailing – of which more anon.

Sigma 33 0489The Sigma 33s will be celebrating their 40th Anniversary with a strong fleet at the VDLR 2019

Irish Sailing

Irish Sailing held its Annual General Meeting a week ago. But it scarcely grabbed the headlines for the good reason that the turbulent times of seven years or so ago are now firmly behind us, and changes of office and new appointments were almost routine. The popular Jack Roy (who was of course at Thursday evening’s reception) will continue as President for another year, and as he is a leading Race Officer on frequent occasions including the VDLR, and an active sailor when he can find the time, we can merely marvel and wonder where he gets the energy and enthusiasm in the midst of a busy day job.

There were three retirees from the Irish Sailing board – Brian Craig, Simon McGibney and Colin Kavanagh – with Colin Kavanagh being re-nominated by the board while Simon McGibney was replaced by his successor as ICRA Commodore, Richard Colwell, who was nominated by Howth Yacht Club. Also nominated as Directors were James Lyons (Kinsale YC) and David O’Brien (Royal Cork YC).

So there it is. After seven years of wise guidance, Brian Craig has quietly stood down from the Irish Sailing Board. It is another chapter in an extraordinary life story of sailing and service to sailing. The word is that he is now engaged in another important role in sailing administration which is even more of a background nature than his usual approach, which makes an entire philosophy out of doing good work by stealth.

craughwell killeen craig14Nigel Craughwell (Royal Marine Hotel), Brenda Killeen and multi-tasker Brian Craig. Photo: Fotosail/Gareth Craig

Every so often, he has had to put his head above the parapet – for instance, he was Chairman for the first two Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regattas in 2005 and 2007, with an approach which has set the tone of the event ever since. And he also had to be more visible when he and his team brought what was then the ISAF Youth Worlds to Dublin Bay in 2012, making it an outstanding event despite the tough economic times.

Brian Craig’s continuing voluntary contribution has been recognised with awards like the ISA Volunteer of the Year, the 2010 National Award to Volunteers from what is now Sports Ireland, and he was December 2012’s “Sailor of the Month” after that outstanding Youth Worlds. But such rewards mean less to him than being able to see a thriving Irish sailing scene, and despite the earliness in the season, the past week or so have brought him great satisfaction.

For instance, there’s the busy university sailing scene, always a special interest for him. They’d their National Team Racing Championship at the imaginative venue of Lough Key, a double pleasure as he is also an inland waterways enthusiast. UCD skippered by Lucy McCutcheon won. Then last weekend it was the Student Nationals in J/80s at Howth – CIT won, skippered by Harry Durcan.

At the same time, the Irish Optimists, the quintessence of our junior sailing and another Craig interest, were at the British Spring Opens in Lymington with a squad of 28 in a fleet of 155. They were very much in the hunt with four in the top ten and two on the podium – James Dwyer Matthews of Kinsale, taking first while Luke Turvey of Howth was third.

hayes curran orourke15The folks who keep the boats sailing - Steve Hayes and Graham Curran of UK Sailmakers Ireland with Antonia O’Rourke of Viking Marine at the VDLR 2019 reception in the Maritime Museum. Photo: Fotosail/Gareth Craig

As for the other end of the scale, it was Brian Craig who played a key role in organising the marvellous welcome home for Annalise Murphy after she’d won the Silver at the 2016 Olympics – the front line showing by Finn Lynch in this week’s Olympic Classes regatta in Palma will stand well in the Craig view of things.

And then on Thursday night, there he was, quietly in the midst of the party to launch the latest edition of his beloved Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. The ultimate Main Man, and first Chairman of a major regatta, the VDLR, which has now gone on to acquire international status.

Published in Volvo Regatta
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A crowd of sailors, sponsors and volunteers attended the official launch of Volvo Dún Laoghaire Regatta 2019 at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland last night.

This eighth edition of the regatta event promises to be the second biggest sailing event in Northern Europe this year and is attracting a large visiting entry from around the Irish Sea and further afield. A crowd of sailors, sponsors and volunteers attended the official launch at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland on Thursday 4th April.

The event is previewed by David O'Brien in the Irish Times Sailing Column this morning here and also on Afloat.ie here.

The significance of the event for the town was evident from the gathering of councillors and official representatives.

Mary Mitchell O'Connor T.D., Minister of State for Education, who is a local representative, highlighted the role of volunteers in staging the massive event that relies upon over a 300-strong team. 

Among the guests last night was Irish Sailing President Jack Roy, the event's Chief Race Officer Con Murphy and newly elected National Yacht Club Commodore Martin McCarthy. DBSC Turkey Shoot organiser Fintan Cairns attended along with new DBSC Hon Sec Chris Moore.

The Royal Irish's Pat Shannon and the Royal St. George's Derek Ryan were also part of the 400-strong launch party along with Dun Laoghaire Harbour Master Captain Simon Coate.

The Irish Marine trade was well represented too with, among others, Graham Curran of UK Sailmakers, Antonia O'Rourke of Viking Marine and Joss Walsh and John O'Kane of MGM Boats.

Howth Yacht Club guests included former commodore Brian Turvey and Paddy Judge. Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race organiser Adam Winkelmann also attended along with class reps from 30 different class associations that will participate in July.

Photos of last night's special gathering by Gareth Craig are below with WM Nixon's take on the 2019 VDLR appearing in his Afloat.ie blog tomorrow.

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1Ann Kirwan, Adam Winkleman and Peter Sherry

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1Jim Dolan, Derek Ryan (Rear Commodore, Social - Royal St George YC) and David Lovegrove

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1Chris Moore, Councillor Barry Ward and Pat Shannon

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1Nigel Craughwell (General Manager, Royal Marine Hotel), Brenda Killeen and Brian Craig

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1A large group from Collen Construction (l to r - Tommy Drumm, Neil Collen, Pamela Collen, Declan Maguire, Barry King and NYC Commodore Martin McCarthy) meeting An Cathaoirleach Ossian Smyth

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1Larry Power (National YC), Rosemary O'Connell, Sarah Byrne and Alan Balfe

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1Steve Hayes, Graham Curran (UK Sailmakers Ireland) and Antonia O'Rourke (Viking Marine)

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1Don O'Dowd, Chairperson of the Organising Committee

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1An Cathaoirleach Ossian Smyth, of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1Mary Mitchell O'Connor T.D., Minister of State for Education

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1David Thomas, Managing Director of Volvo Cars Ireland

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1Vincent Delany, Miriam FitzSimons, and An Cathaoirleach Ossian Smyth

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch1Paddy Judge, Brian Turvey and Cathy MacAleavey

Dun Laoghaire regatta launch19Emma O'Carroll (Volvo Cars Ireland), Ciara Dowling (Regatta Secretary), Lynn McNally and Patricia Greene (Volvo Cars Ireland)

Published in Volvo Regatta
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With three months to go to the first gun off Dun Laoghaire’s famous harbour, 410 boats are already entered — and more than half the entries are visiting craft to Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2019.

It is an early-season marine tourism boost for the east coast town, and one that means the next edition of Ireland’s biggest sailing regatta can expect a fleet of 500 yachts and possibly more for this biennial four-day battle of the Irish Sea.

More than 70 different sailing clubs are represented, including the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, UK, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, from which there are currently 111 entries, and across Ireland. 

"More than 70 different sailing clubs are represented"

In a nod to the event’s growing international stature, an early entry has been received from the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club with ex-pat Jamie McWilliam sailing the production IRC race boat Signal 8, an impressive Ker 40 design.

Signal 8 Ker 40 Jamie McWilliamJamie McWilliam's Royal Hong Kong Signal 8 (Ker 40) will compete at VDLR Photo: Afloat.ie

Growing over the last 14 years, the regatta is now proudly one of Northern Europe’s greatest shows on water, eclipsed only by the UK’s Cowes Regatta, one of the longest-running regular regattas in the world.

“Since it first set sail in 2005, Dun Laoghaire Regatta has grown biennially and showcases the very best of Irish sailing action on the water. With a festival this size, the regatta also adds a lot of shoreside summer colour to Dun Laoghaire town”, Event Chairman Don O’Dowd said.

"300 sailing races across 30 classes, and 2,500 competitors"

With over 300 sailing races across 30 classes, and 2,500 competitors ranging from Olympic and world-class professionals to weekend sailors, there is a growing acknowledgement of the role of sailing as an economic driver in the harbour town.

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor said “The Regatta has a huge and very welcome sporting, tourism and commercial impact on Dun Laoghaire. The whole town works to make it a success.”

“The Regatta brings a significant amount to the local economy. Using the Irish tourism multiplier, the average expenditure per competitor will be €100 per day which for 2,500 competitors will be €250,000 per day and €1,000,000 over four days.

In an effort to protect our waters we are running the event as a Clean Regatta through the international Sailors for the Sea programme, supported by the MaREI Centre, which will see us implementing a number of Clean Regattas Best Practices to reduce our environmental impact." O’Dowd added.

But the main interest is on the racing itself. A sideshow of the regatta is the national pride between Ireland and Britain and how many winners can rack up across the four days.

The Volvo Trophy is on the line for the overall winner of IRC and 2017’s winner, Joker II, a local J109 design, is back to defend it.

VDLR 2019 3784John Maybury's Joker II will defend her Volvo Trophy title in Dun Laoghaire Photo: Afloat.ie

Joker II, under skipper John Maybury, was also the class winner of the highly competitive Class One, and two years later this class has only got stronger with some new local marques such as Andrew Algeo’s J99 Juggerknot II, as well as Scottish and Belfast boats contesting this division.

The Scottish boats come to Dun Laoghaire under the recently developed RC35 class banner that will make the 35-foot regatta one of the most keenly contested battles of the season.

As well as Class One, key classes in the line-up include the other IRC rating classes with a visiting fleet of vintage Half Tonners from Howth contesting Class Two.

In addition, ‘one design’ classes will include the Beneteau 31.7s, Beneteau 211, Sigma 33, Ruffian 23s, Dragons and the RS Elites, who stage their British Championships as part of the VDLR, currently with 34 entries. 

The dinghy classes will include the GP14, Wayfarer, Squib, Mermaid, Flying Fifteen, and single-handed Lasers and Moths.

But it’s not all high-tech racing at Dun Laoghaire. Traditional sailing is still very much a part of the regatta programme.

Dun Laoghaire Regatta 0272Classic boat racing at 2017 Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Afloat.ie

Following 2017’s harbour bicentenary celebrations as part of the regatta, Myths & Seabird Half Raters from the 100-year-old Trearddur Bay in Wales are crossing the Irish Sea again for the July festival and will join Dublin Bay's own historic classes for a classic boat regatta as part of the overall regatta.

O’Dowd says: “The VDLR owes its prominence in European sailing events to a number of factors. One of the core attributes to attracting so many entrants is that it is one of the least expensive sailing events in Europe, thanks to generous sponsorship and support, so providing great value for money for all in the lovely waters of Dublin Bay.

“We also have more than 300 volunteers who give their time and energy to ensure the regatta runs smoothly, as well as the active co-operation of Dublin Bay Sailing Club, local area businesses and the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

“And of course the support from the thousands of visitors who come to watch the spectacle and take part in all the family-oriented activities in and around Dun Laoghaire.”

The biennial fixture is organised jointly by the four Dun Laoghaire waterfront yacht clubs (the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club (DMYC), the National Yacht Club (NYC), the Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC) and the Royal St George Yacht Club (RSGYC).

Published in Dublin Bay
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In this week of meteorological mayhem exacerbated by an unsettling international political atmosphere, a reassuring and heartening mood of warm optimism was provided by getting together with Don O’Dowd, Chairman of the Organising Committee for Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2019 writes W M Nixon

The idea was to find out more about this year’s staging of a unique biennial event and to learn more of the background to a man who is the very essence of Dun Laoghaire’s remarkable reputation for the efficient administration of top sailing events and initiatives.

The long southern shore of Dublin Bay is unusual in that, once you’ve put the entrance to Dublin Port astern, the only significant recreational boating access to the sea between the inner Bay and Bray in North County Wicklow is to be found at Dun Laoghaire.

For sure, there are little harbours at Bulloch and Coliemore and two or three other places with open landing facilities. But the basic fact is that virtually all of the recreational maritime energy of South Dublin - one of the most affluent regions in Europe - is channelled through this one decidedly splendid artificial harbour.

dl aerial barrow2Conduit for sailing energy and innovation – Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the vital inter-connector between South Dublin’s affluent population and its sailing waters on Dublin Bay. As a result, the harbour clubs have long experience in creating events which attract many sailing visitors. Photo: Peter Barrow

This results not only in sailing numbers which soar above all other centres in Ireland and on nearby coastlines but in a living and developing of sailing innovation and administration going back well over a hundred years. Some of the best brains and most abundant energies in all South Dublin have been active in this aspect of its sailing over the years, and the standards have become very high.

So agreeing to be Chairman of the biennial VDLR is not something to be undertaken lightly. And being Chairman for this year’s event brings its own extra challenges. For it says everything about the success of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta of 2017 that simply thinking of it transposes us back to warm summer evenings in July, when the waterfront clubs were buzzing with friendly crowds of shipmates and competitors at a host of post-racing events which exuded that happy mood which prevails when the day’s sailing has been good.

don odowd3Administrative action – Don O’Dowd on the job at the 2012 ISAF Youth Worlds in Dublin Bay
And there was a bonus with the regatta taking in its stride the extra challenge of celebrating the Bicentenary of Kingstown Harbour in a meaningful way which set exactly the right tone. This was boosted by the inauguration of a hugely successful classics and traditional division, and the result was as complete a regatta package as you could reasonably hope to experience.

Yet merely marking time and providing more of the same is not today’s Dun Laoghaire approach. Admittedly many of the modifications for 2019 will be just a matter of fine tuning on 2017’s success. But if there is a discernible line of thought for 2019, it is that while the emphasis remains on this being a fun regatta rather than a collection of major championships, good sport is actually the best fun racing people can have afloat, so the thinking is that those who want to up their game will be encouraged.

Partly this is because there’s a growing tendency to make use of the fact that the complete racing setup will be available at five centres out on the Bay to cater for what may be a total of as many as 39 classes. Some of these classes naturally get to thinking that if all this top level race-provision paraphernalia is out there on the Bay, why not optimise its easy availability and designate your class’s participation as being the Leinster Championship or even the National Championship?

con murphy4Race Director Con Murphy heads up a team of six Race Officers of International and Olympic standard. Photo: W M Nixon
In past regattas classes as diverse as the IDRA 14s, the Wayfarers, and the GP 14s have done this, and for 2019 it has been stepped up a further gear with the Sigma 33 Class designating it as their special 40th Anniversary Championship and the RC35 class have made it a pillar of their Celtic Cup series between Scotland, Ireland and Wales, while the distinctive keelboats of the RS Elite Class have been allowed to designate the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta as their UK National Championship.

Now that really is stretching the limits. But it’s something that Don O’Dowd is well-qualified to handle. Most if not all of the RS Elites in Ireland are based in the north, and a significant number are sailed by former International Dragon Sailors. Don O’Dowd was for many years at the very sharp end of International Dragon Racing, so he knows the kind of folk he’ll be dealing with in this unusual case, and with his years of experience already logged with running many major events, he sees how it can all be accommodated to give the RS Elites a worthwhile UK Nationals while stimulating rather than disturbing the ethos of the regatta.

rs elite5The RS Elite is designer Phil Morrison’s take on a miniature version of the America’s Cup keelboats of a previous generation.
So who is he, this Don O’Dowd who comfortably bestrides so many important aspects of sailing? Well, if you wanted to set out to create the archetypal Dun Laoghaire sailor from scratch, you’d save yourself a lot of time and trouble simply by asking Don to step up to the plate, something he has been doing readily, willingly and effectively for our sport for many years.

His father Tom was a noted publican whose flagship establishment was The Old Punchbowl in Booterstown. While there were some family sailing links to Skerries and Clonrarf, the young Don’s memories are most clearly of a former International Dragon which Tom mostly just day-cruised, but occasionally raced with the cruisers from the National YC.

Living in Booterstown, O’Dowd Jnr had the daily trans-Liffey trek for schooling at Belvedere, where he took on board the rugby culture, but eased out of it after Junior Cup level. Meanwhile, his interest in sailing, while always there, has been inspired to fresh levels of enthusiasm by the International Mirror Europeans in 1966 at Wexford. The family had a holiday home in the sunny southeast, and one day his dad took him along to see the action and savour the atmosphere of this high-powered event at the legendary Wexford Harbour Boat & Tennis Club. Young Don was completely hooked by the whole experience, and still remembers his sense of awe in contemplating a Mirror dinghy with a graphite-finished bottom which was smoothed to a level of fast finish he’d never have imagined possible.

Back home, the new Junior Programme at the National Yacht Club was getting underway under the direction of Carmel Winkelmann and her colleagues (they’d a mighty Golden Jubilee celebration back in 2017) and Don O’Dowd was soon part of it with his own recently-acquired Mirror Dinghy.

asgard1 sailing6 1The original Asgard during her six years as Ireland’s sail training vessel between 1969 and 1975. The youthful Don O’Dowd was aboard her as a trainee when she voyaged to the Sailing Olympics at Kiel in Germany in 1972

His sailing experiences during the 1970s were extraordinarily diverse. In addition to campaigning the Mirror, he was a trainee aboard the original Asgard when she was on the Tall Ships programme which brought her to the 1972 Olympic Games at Kiel on the Baltic in Germany. And then in 1976 when Asgard’s successor Creidne made her Transatlantic Voyage to join the Bicentennial Celebrations of the United States of America with the training ships of many nations in New York Harbour, O’Dowd was on her crew.

But in another sailing direction entirely, when the National Yacht Club decided to support the establishment of an International 420 Class, Don teamed up with John Lavery to campaign one of these new boats which were to transform the upper end of Irish sailing, and their partnership was very active and successful for four years.

420 1416The International 420 getting into its stride. For four years, Don O’Dowd and John Lavery sailed together in this top junior class as it developed at the National YC
Yet with all the energy of youth during the late 1970s, he also found himself drawn into the developing offshore racing scene, where pace-setter Jim Poole of the National YC had acquired the state-of-the-art Bruce Farr-designed Quarter Tonner which became very well known on the Irish Sea as Farrocious.

The determined and dedicated Poole was sailing with his regular crewman Eamon Crosbie, and for ISORA campaigning they added the likes of Brian Mathews, Brian McGrath and Don O’Dowd with the occasional addition of Paul Rothschild and Paul Burke, such that Farrocious became very well known for the simple reason that she won just about everything for which she was eligible.

farrocious plans8The plans of Jim Poole’s Bruce Farr-designed Quarter Tonner Farrocious. In the late 1970s when she won just about every ISORA trophy for which she was eligible, Don O’Dowd was a regular crewmember. She was capable of fantastic speeds offwind. “At 15 knots” Don recalls, “she started to hum – we knew she was in the groove”.
Meanwhile, shore life continued, and as his departure from Belvedere approached, Don felt drawn to marketing and took a diploma in it before testing a number of areas until he found himself working for the Bryan S Ryan organization dealing in office equipment and supplies, and reporting directly to Bryan’s brother, the great Ken Ryan. Ken was not only an ace in but was in the process of becoming a figure of significance in international sailing administration, going on to become the Secretary of the global International Finn Association.

Regular contacts with people of this calibre are bound to affect the outlook of keen young men working their way up the ladder in business and sailing, and in time Don O’Dowd’s natural capacity to run a complex business found him in a senior Irish role in the Velux Windows network, while his sailing had taken a new turn, or more accurately an additional interest.

During the 420 racing years (when the National Championships were always held at Mountshannon on Lough Derg) the Lavery/O’Dowd team had struck up a particular friendship with a rival crew, the brothers David and Alan McFarlane. With growing seniority, the 420 participation was inevitably closing towards its close by 1980, when Don O’Dowd and Alan McFarlane found they’d a shared enthusiasm for the possibilities of International Dragon racing. So they went into partnership with the acquisition of the wooden Dragon Ailsa from Geoffrey Ashenhurst.

andrew craig chimaera9For more than twenty years, Don O’Dowd was a top International Dragon sailor – he is seen here trimming the spinnaker for Andrew Craig on Chimaera. Photo: Fiona Brown
Thus they got to know Mick Cotter, who in those days was Dragon Racing Incarnate. He’d updated the wooden Tarasque at his home workshop, and when it became painfully obvious that Ailsa needed something similar, as Mick had spare space in his workshop he suggested the partners move Ailsa in alongside his boat and more or less replicate what he’d done with Tarasque.

It was the forging of another link in Don O’Dowd’s remarkable network of special friendships. For when - after a few years of great sailing with Ailsa - Alan McFarlane regretfully announced that a young man couldn’t afford to be both married and continue as a partner in an actively-campaigned Dragon, as he was about to get married Ailsa was sold, and Don O’Dowd moved aboard Mick Cotter’s succession of top-level International Dragons as the skipper’s right-hand man during what was to become a Golden Age for the Irish Dragon class.

dragon 1998 champs10A special moment of success – Whisper wins Irish Dragon Championship 1998 at Royal St George YC with (left to right) Don O’Dowd, Paul Ricard Hoj Jensen and skipper Mick Cotter

They won titles a-plenty including two Irish Nationals, but in addition there was the Southern European Circuit, a series of ferociously-contested regattas which started in Palma and concluded at Douarnenez in Brittany, an incredible cat’s cradle of logistics, sport and parties between high-end boats so identical that after one Douarnenez event, a certain Irish sailor was well on the road home when he found he was towing the wrong boat…..

It was a crazy pace, but back home Don O’Dowd’s life was following more regular paths, with his career in Velux going on to have an international dimension and the establishment of the top level Rationel brand in Ireland, and meanwhile he’d become engaged to Helen Burke, whose father was a former Irish Rugby International player, but they were happy with the proposed plans for the wedding celebrations to take place in the National Yacht Club.

Unfortunately, the National suffered a major fire as the great day approached, but Mick Cotter stepped into the breach by arranging that the wedding reception be held in his club, the Royal St George, where Don O’Dowd was already a regular. By the time the National was restored, the O’Dowd administrative talents and enthusiasm had been spotted by the likes of Brian Craig and Gary Treacy in the George, and somehow or other he has been a Royal St George sailor ever since, although like all on the VDLR Committee, he is at home and welcome in all four Dun Laoghaire clubs.

But there was much to do before the VDLR came over the horizon, for in the 1990s the Royal St George was emerging as a prodigious pace-setter both in Junior Training and in attracting major international events to Dun Laoghaire. With his two sons Jonathan and Matthew showing real sailing ability and interest, Don found himself teaming up with Gary Treacy and Peter O’Reilly to organise a major Winter Training Programme at RStGYC in 1998-99, with numbers well into the hundreds.

gary treacy dragon11Project partners afloat and ashore – Gary Treacy and Don O’Dowd much absorbed in Dragon racing. Yet they also found the time to inaugurate intense RStGYC training programmes for the Mirror Class in concert Peter O’Reilly of the Optimists

And all this at a time when the Dragon campaigning was at its height at home and abroad – with Mick Cotter’s Whisper so often overseas, it had been special to win the East Coast championship at Dun Laoghaire in 1992, but all the icing was on the cake in 1998 when they won the Irish Nationals at Royal St George.

On the junior side, in those days the Mirror Class was huge in Ireland and Don had both a family and a national interest, such that by the late 1990s, he found himself President of the Class Association with the vision to optimize the potential of the many young sailors coming through the ranks.

He and Gary Treacy felt that several promising juniors were being held back by poor quality Mirror dinghies, so they commissioned ace boatbuilder Edwin Brennan of Dun Laoghaire to build six Mirrors of top standard. The Mirror Worlds of 2001 were scheduled for Howth and already showed signs of attracting a record fleet, but Don O’Dowd and others in the Mirror administration were well aware that Ireland’s chances would be greatly improved with a solid backing for frustrated talent to get into the new boats in time for them to be fully tuned.

mirror world champions 2001 peter bayly and william atkinson12Job done. Peter Bayly and William Atkinson win the Mirror Worlds for Ireland at Howth in 2001

A particular case in point was Peter Bayly of Lough Derg YC, who was so disappointed in some of his own more recent showings that he was reportedly on the verge of giving up Mirror racing altogether. But Don and his team cajoled Bayly into one of the new boats, gave him every support and encouragement to realize his potential, and the reward for everyone came in 2001 when Peter Bayly - crewed by William Atkinson - won the 2001 Worlds for Ireland.

For the O’Dowd family, the Mirror sailing highlight came in 2003 when Jonathan – aged 16 – and Matthew – aged 11 – came for just one year within the right age cohort to compete together, and it turned out to perfection with them winning the Irish Nationals in Sligo.

It was typical of the pace with which the family were living the sailing life at the time that although their mother Helen was there in full support, their father with his above average height, long reach, general dexterity and many sailing skills was so much in demand in the Dragon fleet that he was down in Kinsale taking part in a major championship. But the mood of euphoria was such that Helen and the boys drove from Sligo to Kinsale for a joint celebration of the newly won trophy.

2003 marked something of a turning point, or at least a change of course, for with the Irish economy starting to soar, anyone with a genuine ability to run things well and a willingness to serve on specialist committees and similar bodies was much in demand, and Don O’Dowd was very much one of those people.

The business was expanding with modern headquarters in Sandyford, yet the family lived in Merrion and still do – he was and is a “reverse commuter”, which is no bad way to be. As for sailing, his main allegiance was still with the Dragons, but with Mick Cotter spreading his wings into larger craft Don found himself sailing – and frequently to success – with Gary Treacy and Andrew Craig.

j109 20011vdlr13As the Irish economy surged in the Celtic Tiger years, the number of major international events in Dublin Bay increased. The biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta was introduced in 2005, and immediately became a pillar event of the Irish sailing calendar – this is the J/109s getting into their stride in a good breeze of wind in 2011’s edition. Photo: VDLR

But inexorably he was drawn ever further into sailing administration, both of clubs and events. He’d already been the Irish Sailing Association “Volunteer of the Year” in 2003, and then he was Rear Commodore (Sailing) of the Royal St George YC in 2011-13. But these outward manifestations were only part of a pattern which included running the 420 Europeans in 2004 for the Royal St George with such efficiency that in time he found himself being drawn into the ultimate nuclear power unit, a tiny but far-reaching ideas and action factory known simply as Major Events, made up of Brian Craig and Don O’Dowd, with Ciara Dowling to provide structure for their thinking.

It was thinking which needed to be extremely clear-headed and very determined, for although they’d successfully staged the Star Europeans in 2009, in 2010 at the ISAF Conference in Barcelona they’d secured the ISAF Youth Worlds for Dun Laoghaire in 2012, and by the time the event actually happened, the Irish economy had fallen off a cliff, and it took nerves of steel to run such an outstandingly successful mega-event.

“Major Events” was of course an exclusively RStGYC unit, but by the early years of the 21st Century there was a gathering movement for Dun Laoghaire to stage a biennial blockbuster event, which eventually became the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta promoted by all four clubs. Despite the extremely bumpy economic ride which the country has experienced since, the VDLR has become one of the real pillar events of Irish sailing, and since its inauguration in 2005, there have been five chairmen: Brian Craig (2005 & 2007); Phil Smith (2009); Adam Winkelmann (2011 & 2013); Tim Goodbody (2015 & 2017) and now Don O’Dowd (2019).

vdlr chairmen14The Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Chairmen with Executive Secretary Ciara Dowling are (left to right) Tim Goodbody (2015 & 2017), Adam Winkelmann (2011 & 2013), Ciara Dowling, Phil Smith (2009) and Brian Craig (2005 & 2007)

Continuity has been provided though Con Murphy being Race Director since the regatta was inaugurated, while the unflappable Ciara Dowling has been a source of reassurance to everyone through being Executive Secretary & Regatta Co-ordinator from the get-go. The pace of the management style for the VDLR 2019 is typified by a routine 0830hrs phone and email exchange every weekday morning between Ciara and Don to see where the emphasis of the day’s administrative work will be while looking ahead to the next stages in running such a major event.

Don O’Dowd had so many things on his plate until around 2015 that it wasn’t until then that he was approached to be on the VDLR Committee itself, with the view of taking over as Chairman in the fullness of time. His years of experience in sailing administration stand to everyone’s benefit, but as he admits himself, at 63 he is no longer quite the agile big fellah of top end Dragon racing that he used to be. In fact, for the past season or two, he has found extremely good sport with Colm O’Brien in the Jeanneau 39 Spirit in the White Sails Division, where he’s amused to note that every so often he finds himself in close competition with other former Dragon hotshots.

white sail15Colm O’Brien’s Jeanneau 39 Spirit racing in the White Sails Division. In a continuing sailing career which has ranged over 420 racing, ocean voyaging, hotshot offshore contests and top level Dragon competition, Don O’Dowd now finds it great sport to get the best possible performance out of a comfortable cruiser-racer.

But as for the demands of being the Chairman of the Organising Committee for this most extraordinary regatta which relies on the support of volunteers of the highest calibre, his mantra is for improvement and quality rather than quantity. Though he may have the services of Race Officers of the experience and ability of Con Murphy, Jack Roy, Bill O’Hara, David Lovegrove, Peter Crowley and Harry Gallagher afloat, while on the waterfront he has the support of Sailing Managers like Mark McGibney, Ronan Adams and Olivier Prouveur, nevertheless he reckons that 2017’s regatta with 488 entries “was near enough optimum boat numbers”.

Yet here we are, entries already at 275, and it’s only March 16th with Early Bird entries running until March 31st. Either way, it’s a good time to have a steady, experienced and popular hand on the VDLR 2019 helm.

vdlr2017 afloat16A clean start in a perfect sailing breeze – everyone’s hopes for the VDLR 2019. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

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A stellar RS Elite entry for Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta includes Olympic medallists, World and National champions competing for the 2019 UK National Championship – held for the first time as part of a larger event and outside of the UK on Dublin Bay.

Entrants include former Olympic medallists Mike McIntyre (Gold 1988 -Star class, and current RS Elite National Champion) and Ossie Stewart (Bronze 1992 – Soling class), current International 14 World Champion Andy Partington, former Dragon Edinburgh Cup winner Simon Brien and many other sailors with a record of success at national and international level. The fleet is especially pleased to welcome back Steve Powell, former RS Elite Association chairman, whose tireless work over the years has underpinned the success of the fleet today.

The RS Elite had its origin in the early 2000s when a group of sailors at Haying Island Sailing Club on the English south coast were looking for a new keelboat class. The result was the RS Elite, whose designer Phil Morrison described as a modern version of the classic racing sailboat such as the XOD or Swallow. The Elite quickly spread to Burnham on Crouch, to Northern Ireland and to Cowes, with international fleets in Norway, Antigua and Italy. The RS Elite has become a highly competitive class that has attracted top sailors.

As Afloat.ie reported previously, the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta has been well known to Irish RS Elite sailors for the quality of both its race management and its social scene. This year there are entrants from all the mainland UK RS Elite fleets as well as a substantial contingent from Northern Ireland. Approximately half of the entries are from outside of Ireland. Coming to Dun Laoghaire adds a new dimension to the 2019 Nationals.

The RS Elite is a highly sociable class and the sailors are looking forward to enjoying the best of Irish hospitality and some serious partying. The class will enjoy social events in each of the four Dun Laoghaire clubs with a grand Class Championship dinner in the Royal St George Yacht club.

Class chairman Paul Fisk has said: I have no doubt that the four Clubs will go out of their way to look after us and ensure that we enjoy one of our best Championships to date. To make the event extra special, we will have our own dedicated course area. Dun Laoghaire is a town rich in history and culture with a host of different things to do. It is undoubtedly a spectacular venue. We can make the 2019 National Championship an extra special one to remember!

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The Super Early Bird Draw for the 2019 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta took place yesterday evening (in the presence of an independent observer) and the boats (download the full list below) were drawn as winners – each of whom will receive a refund of their entry fee.

Winners were drawn from 224 eligible entrants who had entered and paid their entry fee by 31st December.

As David O'Brien reports in the Irish Times this morning, the current entry is 239 on target to match 2009's record entry of 450 boats

Early Bird Discount stays open until 31st March 2019.

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With over six months to the first gun of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, 228 entries had been received by the close of the Super Early Bird Entry deadline of 31st December 2018.

The biennial regatta Chairman Don O'Dowd told Afloat.ie "compared to the same period in 2017, there are almost an additional 100 additional boats entered this time".

As Afloat.ie reported in mid-December, 75 entries had been received across 22 classes from 34 different clubs but a surge of entries has pushed the fleet to new heights at this early point.

What's perhaps an even stronger result for the Dun Laoghaire sailing festival is the fact 127 of these will be visitors to the town.

"127 of these will be visitors to the town"

RS Elites, for example, who will hold their UK National Championships have already their full complement of 30 boats entered.

58 yacht clubs are currently represented from the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, UK, Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland as well as National and local boats.

From the Dublin Bay area, the current local entry stands at National Yacht Club 34, Royal Irish Yacht Club 34, Royal St. George Yacht Club 31 and DMYC three.

The Super Early Bird draw will take place on the week commencing 7th January and all winners (with a prize of an entry refund) will be advised with all details of the draw posted on the event website.

Early bird discount entry fee available until 31st March 2019.

The full list of Entries is here Enter online here 

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What would Christmas be like without sailing? Such a state of deprivation just doesn’t bear thinking about writes W M Nixon. But thanks to the wonders of modern communication - which at other times can be too much of a good thing - your Irish sailor who finds Christmas is becoming over-powering can hide away and dial up the already busy entry list for next summer’s Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, or follow the racetrackers for the Golden Globe or the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, and there he or she is – gone…….

Marvellous. You don’t even need to go sailing to get sailing at Christmas. There’s the ongoing drama of the Golden Globe to take you away. In it, the wonderful senior sailor Jean-Luc van den Heede (who looks for all the world like Willie Nelson’s much healthier brother, and sails every bit as well as Brother Willie sings) is hanging onto his lead despite his rig being in shreds, and in recent days has even managed to hold his distance ahead of the very determined Dutchman Mark Slats.

jean luc van den heede2Separated at birth…..? Singer Willie Nelson and sailor Jean-Luc van den Heede 

willie nelson3

Slats doesn’t look like any iconic singer that we know of, but we’re open to suggestions, for our knowledge of the Dutch music scene is limited, and this is the season of goodwill. That said, we’re all rooting for Willie (sorry, for Jean-Luc), for the man has sailing talent and courage to spare.

For the rest of us, if the complete lower shroud mast fitting started cutting its way down through the alloy extrusion of the mast itself, then it would be a matter of getting to port pronto under power, putting professional riggers on the job, and maybe even getting m’learned friends to write a letter to the manufacturers.

But when it happened to Jean-Luc after a massive knockdown of his Rustler 36 Malmut, he was in the middle of nowhere, yet somehow this 73-year-old guy got himself up the mast in the midst of the very rolling ocean and did enough between the shroud tangs and the lower spreader sockets to stop the shrouds cutting any further south.

mark slats boat4Mark Slats’ Rustler 36 Maverick looking decidedly purposeful. Despite two knockdowns in the storm which dismasted Gregor McGuckin and Abilash Tomy, Maverick’s rig is still intact and he is remorselessly hunting down the damaged Golden Globe leader Malmut

It did mean that he could no longer drive his Rustler 36 Malmut as hard as he would have liked, as the mast at times has been giving a passable impression of a piece of spaghetti. So in going on round Cape Horn and such things, he was forced to be sailing with three reefs in when one or two would normally have been all that was required.

Thus an astonishing lead of well over a thousand miles on second-placed Slats has been steadily whittled away, but as of today (Friday) van den Heede is through the 3,900 mile barrier to the finish and 707 miles ahead of Slats. But with some very difficult conditions to be negotiated with this dodgy rig before he gets beck to Les Sables d’Olonne, his problems will be prodigious, for there’ll almost certainly be rugged windward work in the Northeast Trades, and the cobbled-together rig setup emphatically dislikes slugging to windward.

If he does get back under his own steam, there’ll be some party, and this item here from Facebook shows that Jean-Luc isn’t shy of giving it a bit of a lash with the old vocal cords himself. It may not be comparable with Willie Nelson giving his defining rendition of The City of New Orleans, but then we doubt if Willie could get up a mast and carry out the repair which has carried Malmut over thousands of miles.

Meanwhile, the Southern Ocean is now becoming quite cluttered with abandoned Golden Globe racers, and all of them mastless. Gregor McGuckin’s Biscay 36 Hanley Energy Endurance is the most salvageable at the moment, as she has drifted to within 1,250 miles of Western Australia.

Although any salvor would have to think about a new rig in due course, at least there’s the bonus of the special Glendalough whiskey which - all being well - is still safe in its barrel down below decks, as the pre-race foredeck location at Dun Laoghaire, Falmouth and Les Sables was for display purposes only. Ultimately, the idea was to bottle it at race’s end as a collector’s item, with each bottle selling for ginormous amounts. It could happen yet.

glendalough whiskey5Attention all whiskey enthusiasts in Western Australia…..this unique barrel of Glendalough is stowed below aboard Hanley Energy Endurance only 1250 miles away from Perth. Photo: W M Nixon

IRISH INTEREST IN SYDNEY-HOBART

When we think of what the Glendalough barrel and the boats have been through since this Golden Jubilee Suhaili circumnavigation re-enactment began on July 1st, it does rather put the claims about the Rolex Sydney-Hobart being one of the most rugged in the world into perspective. But for sailors who aren’t superhuman, the 628-mile annual classic can be quite enough to be going along with – a view which is supported by the many Volvo Ocean Race veterans who will be on various boats of significance when the race to Hobart gets going on December 26th.

Among them is ex-Pat Gordon Maguire, very much an Australian sailor these days, but he cut his sailing teeth in Howth. He did his fair share and more of successful Volvo racing, but next Wednesday the number one item on the agenda is getting the best performance out of Matt Allen Botin 52 Ichi Ban, with which the Allen-Maguire team took the Tattersalls Cup – the overall IRC winner – in 2017’s race. If they manage it again this time round, it will only be the third time in the race’s history that it has been won back-to-back.

ichi ban6Matt Allen’s Botin 52 Ichi Ban, with Gordon Maguire on the strength for his 21st race to Hobart, is looking for another overall IRC win for the Tattersalls Cup in next week’s Rolex Sydney-Hobart race

ichi ban7A potent yet simple racing machine – tiller-steering enthusiasts see their dreams fulfilled aboard Ichi Ban

Inevitably much interest focuses on the half-dozen hundred footers, with the Mark Richards-skippered Wild Oats XI increasingly fancied, as it doesn’t look as though there’ll always be enough wind around to get the best out of the big fat girls such as Jim Cooney’s Comanche and Christian Beck’s Infotrack.

There’s Irish interest in both of them, as Jim Cooney maintains family links with Ballivor in County Meath and Justin Slattery is in his crew, while Infotrack we knew well when she wasn’t quite looking her best – she was then called Rambler 100, and was more than somewhat inverted at the Fastnet Rock in August 2011.

P

infotrack racing8The boat of many identities. The JK100 Infotrack has had several different names over the years, and looks decidedly different these days in Australia (above) than when last seen in Irish waters near the Fastnet Rock in August 2011 (below)

rambler capsized9

Other Irish interest focuses on the attractive Sydney 47 Wot’s Next, as Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee (overall winner of the 2013 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and June 2013 Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month”) is in the crew. Wot’s Next is as Australian as the kangaroo - the Sydney 47 marque was designed by Murray Burns and Dovell in 2004, and they’re built in state-of-the-art style by Sydney Yachts, which was spun out of the late Ian Bashford’s raceboat building company. The word is the Sydney Yachts inheritors build just slightly more ruggedly than Bashford aimed for. He was so obsessed (and quite rightly so) with keeping weight out of the ends, that it’s said you could almost push your finger through the transoms of his all-conquering J/35s. Maybe so, but they did the business - they were winners every which way.

wots next10The attractive Sydney 47 Wot’s Next will have former Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race overall winner Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee in her crew for the Sydney-Hobart Race
sydney 47 accommodation11The accommodation style in the totally Australian Sydney 47 is very much ahead of the curve

ENTRIES ROLL IN FOR VDLR 2019

Christmas is a time for mixed feelings this year for the organisers of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, for this week they lost one of their founding fathers with the sad death of Owen McNally. Afloat.ie will carry an appreciation of Owen in the near future, and he of all people would have been delighted with the healthy uptake there has been in early entries for 2019’s staging of Ireland’s ultimate sailfest, whose dates are July 11th to 14th.

Already they’re pushing towards the hundred mark, with early entries in 22 of the 39 classes for which racing will be scheduled, and notably strong input from outside Dublin Bay.

You may recall that Half Ton Classics Champion Dave Cullen with Checkmate admitted - after he’d won the title in Belgium - that he always like to have things done well in time, so doubtless Checkmate has already been prepared for next season by Alan Power at Malahide. Meanwhile, she’s firmly on the list for Dun Laoghaire next July, as too are the two HYC-owned J/24s which - in a sign of the times - are to be campaigned by Under 18 crews.

In the depths of the economic recession, they were sailed by Under 25 crews, but in these boomtime days, it seems that any capable 24-year-old is expected to have secured his or her own boat by some means or other, but Under 18s deserve a helping hand.

Either way, getting the entry in early is not only efficient and evidence of good management, but it acts as a very positive signs for existing or potential crew, and it’s of interest to note that from the home fleet at Dun Laoghaire, those signed up include the Goodbody clan with their successful J/109 White Mischief, and the Dublin Bay 2018 First 31.7 champion Camira (Peter Beamish & Andrew Jones

camira racing12The Dublin Bay First 31.7 champion Camira (Peter Beamish & Andrew Jones) is already signed up for next summer’s Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Published in W M Nixon

Peter Beamish's National Championship winning Beneteau 31.7 'Camira' from the Royal Irish Yacht Club is an early entry into next July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta that already has a strong uptake in overseas entries from the UK, Wales, Scotland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

75 entries have been received across 22 classes from 34 different clubs which is an early boost for Ireland's biggest regatta in 2019. The figure has doubled since entries opened last month.

Beamish, who won the 31.7 Title last August on home waters will be racing again on the capital's waters when an expected armada of 500 boats or more converge on Dun Laoghaire. This weekend Camira, a one-time series leader, will contest the final race of the Bay's Turkey Shoot Series.

In other one-design class news, the RS Elites who will be holding their UK Nationals at VDLR 2019 expect 30 boats, with 17 already entered.

In the IRC classes, it looks like Dublin Bay will see a strong visiting contingent from Scotland and Wales in the form of the RC35 class that was previewed recently by Afloat's W M Nixon here.

Racing is open to 39 classes and the Super Early Bird Entry will remain open until 31st December 2018. All fully paid entries received by this date will be automatically entered into a draw, whereby 5% will win a full refund of their entry fee.

The 2019 entry list is here.

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

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

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

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

Competitions

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

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

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

Featured Sailing School

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Featured Clubs

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

Featured Brokers

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Featured Associations

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ICRA
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Featured Events

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Featured Chandleries

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Featured Sailmakers

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Featured Marinas

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Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
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