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The first Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race of 2024 at Dun Laoghaire on Saturday produced a dead heat for first place on IRC rating, according to race organisers at the National Yacht Club.

Chris Power Smith's J122 Aurelia from the Royal St. George Yacht Club made the best of gusty southwest winds to win the line honours, but the smaller champion Rockabill JPK 10.80, skippered by Paul O'Higgins of the Royal Irish Yacht Club, put up a sturdy defence to share victory in the first challenge of the season. 

"It was a dead heat for first place. Amazing! Never saw it happen before!" ISORA boss Peter Ryan told Afloat.

Although there was a 15-boat entry, it was only an eight-boat fleet that contested the 18-mile race out of the Bay to the Kish Bank and back this Saturday morning at 11 am.

ISORA Race Officers Barry MacNeaney and Larry Power of the National Yacht Club Photo: Afloat.ISORA Race Officers Barry MacNeaney and Larry Power of the National Yacht Club Photo: Afloat

Bright sunshine and offshore winds of up to 20 knots set the scene for the season opener, which welcomed Aurelia's return and a new ISORA arrival, the J/99 Mister Ollie.

The 2023 champion, the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, skippered by Paul O'Higgins of the Royal Irish Yacht Club, was the best starter, even if an hourglass hoist cost vital seconds. The French design established an early lead off the West Pier start line in the sub-three-hour race to finish with a corrected time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 00 seconds, exactly the same as Aurelia. 

Tom Shanahan's J109 Ruth came third.

(Above and below) The JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, skippered by Paul O'Higgins of the Royal Irish Yacht Club on her way to victory in the gustry April 13th Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: Afloat(Above and below) The JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, skippered by Paul O'Higgins of the Royal Irish Yacht Club on her way to a dead heat for first place with Aurelia in the gusty April 13th Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: Afloat

(Above and below) The JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, skippered by Paul O'Higgins of the Royal Irish Yacht Club on her way to victory in the gustry April 13th Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: Afloat

The fleet sailed a tight starboard hand reaching leg out to North Kish and a beat back to port, passing the Dublin ISORA virtual mark on the relevant side.

Two J109s made a potent start in the eight-boat fleet, with the Shanahan boat powering off the line under blue spinnaker, easily matching the bigger Aurelia and ahead of Simon Knowles's sistership Indian from Howth Yacht Club.

Simon Knowles' J109 Indian (above) was chasing Tom Shanahan's J109 Ruth (below) before blowing a spinnaker (bottom) in a gusty opening leg of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Simon Knowles' J109 Indian (above) was chasing Tom Shanahan's J109 Ruth (below) hard before blowing a spinnaker (bottom) in a gusty opening leg of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. 

Simon Knowles' J109 Indian (above) was chasing Tom Shanahan's J109 Ruth (below) before blowing a spinnaker (bottom) in a gusty opening leg of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. 

Simon Knowles' J109 Indian (above) was chasing Tom Shanahan's J109 Ruth (below) before blowing a spinnaker (bottom) in a gusty opening leg of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. 

John O'Gorman's Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie competing in the first race of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: AfloatJohn O'Gorman's Sunfast 3600 Hot Cookie competing in the first race of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: Afloat

Jonathan Stanley's J99 Mister Ollie competing in the first race of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: AfloatJonathan Stanley's J99 Mister Ollie competing in the first race of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: Afloat 

Michael Murphy's Sigma 38 State O'Chassis competing in the first race of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: AfloatMichael Murphy's Sigma 38 State O'Chassis competing in the first race of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: Afloat

David Simpson's Swan 37 Albireo competing in the first race of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: AfloatDavid Simpson's Swan 37 Albireo competing in the first race of the 2024 Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Series race Photo: Afloat

The next Irish coastal is Sunday, April 21st, with an 11.00 start for a scheduled four-hour race.

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The absence of a gale warning and a forecasted flat sea state means tomorrow's second ISORA Coastal Race from Dun Laoghaire will go ahead in gusty southwesterly winds, albeit over a shortened course.

A straw poll of skippers was in favour of the race proceeding even though, at one point, it looked like the weather window to start a race had closed in.

The course announced on Friday lunchtime has been shortened to north Kish and back, passing the Dublin ISORA virtual mark on the relevant side.

"The decision to start or to continue rests wholly with the Skipper", ISORA chief Peter Ryan reminded competitors. 

The second race of the Viking Marine Irish coastal series is due to start at 11 a.m. off Dun Laoghaire. Weather forecasts predict strong southwesterly winds gusting up to 35 mph on Saturday afternoon. 

Ryan is allowing for a three-hour race with all boats finished by approximately 2 pm.

As regular Afloat readers know, the first race was postponed last weekend due to Storm Kathleen and is scheduled to be re-run at a later date with a suggestion from Afloat's W M Nixon that double points could be awarded for the April 13th race, and forget about any later re-staging of the first blocked race of 2024.

Final Sailing Instructions are below.

Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Race Entries for Race Two on April 13th 2024Viking Marine ISORA Coastal Race Entries for Race Two on April 13th 2024

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ISORA cruiser-racers are looking for a 'weather window' to get their 2024 season underway this Saturday morning (13th April).

The second race of the Viking Marine Irish coastal series is due to start at 11 am off Dun Laoghaire, but weather forecasts predict strong southwesterly winds gusting up to 40 mph on Saturday afternoon. 

Nevertheless, ISORA chief Peter Ryan believes a 'weather window may exist' that will allow for a three-hour race with all boats finished by 1400 hours.

As regular Afloat readers know, the first race was postponed last weekend due to Storm Kathleen and is scheduled to be re-run at a later date with a suggestion from Afloat's W M Nixon that double points could be awarded for the April 13th race, and forget about any later re-staging of the first blocked race of 2024.

Further updates on Saturday's race status are awaited from ISORA HQ. Sailing Instructions have been published and are below.

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This weekend is expected to see the Entry List for the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race on June 22nd going through the 40 mark, with a good selection of boats already providing a healthy mix of internationally-renowned craft lining up against standard club entries, of which a notably high number are from Scotland and Wales.

Significantly, Entry 39 this week was Nicolas Guibal’s Class40 Unicorn from France, the first of the Class40s to spearhead a class which will have one of their main in-house events racing in offshore Irish waters later this year with the CIC Normandy Channel Race - from Caen in mid-September - taking in the Tuskar and Fastnet Rocks as turning marks.

NOT TAKING YOU HOME AGAIN, KATHLEEN

So what, you might well ask, has any or all of that to do with this weekend’s weather-battered programme of special early season events? After all, Storm Kathleen has been brought home whether we like it or not, making merry mayhem with the ongoing Youth Nationals at Crosshaven, causing the postponement of today’s inaugural ISORA Coastal Race from Dun Laoghaire, and leading to a sigh of relief that some of the traditional club annual “clear the deck” group launchings don’t occur for another week.

Normally the Jetstream weaves around in snake-like style, but today it has straightened itself out, all the better to target usNormally the Jetstream weaves around in snake-like style, but today it has straightened itself out, all the better to target us.

Well, the fact that most enthusiasts will be cheered simply by looking beyond this weekend’s meteorological setbacks is symptomatic of the basic resilience of the Irish annual sailing programme and its participants, as it could reasonably be claimed that together they go back on an annual basis for 304 years.

Yet sometimes it can take a while to get your head around this, and accept the realities of living on a wet and windy island on the lee side of the Atlantic in a continually changing environment of thought and action, with this past week giving much to think about as we reach today, hiding as best we can under the current direct line of the Jetstream.

SELF-DELUDING APRIL FOOL?

This weird week began on Monday, April 1st, when we’d a complex morning story - for the special day that was in it - about Holyhead Sailing Club being allowed to revive the old Royal Holyhead Yacht Club title. Like all proper would-be April Fool features, there was enough in it to make it just possible that what was suggested in fantasy might truly be the case. Now, the Word From Wales is that we might well be hoisted by our own petard. The Royal Holyhead may yet be revived.

 It surely deserves to fly again - the Royal Holyhead YC ensign has not been warranted for more than 150 years It surely deserves to fly again - the Royal Holyhead YC ensign has not been warranted for more than 150 years

It would be no more than we deserve. For instead of focusing the April First searchlight 54 miles eastward towards Anglesey, we would have been better sending a communications survey drone a thousand or so miles southeast to Mallorca and Palma Bay, where the weird old Gothic mega-shed that does duty as the Cathedral of Santa Maria was looming as usual over the bay. There, various hot classes of Olympic interest had fooled themselves into thinking that the first week of April might serve up some balmy breezes to provide ideally user-friendly conditions for the Princess Sofeo Regatta.

ILCAs racing in the 2024 Princess Sofeo Regatta at Palma in Mallorca below the Cathedral of Santa Maria. This photo can be seen in at least three ways. Dinghy sailors will marvel that they got racing at all in weather like this. Architectural anoraks will note the evidence of Gaudi’s late involvement in the cathedral’s design with the twin mini-spires at the far end. And your average Irish rural house owner will wonder how on earth they got planning permission for that mini-palace in splendid isolation hallway up the hillside, in a prime position alone among the trees.ILCAs racing in the 2024 Princess Sofeo Regatta at Palma in Mallorca below the Cathedral of Santa Maria. This photo can be seen in at least three ways. Dinghy sailors will marvel that they got racing at all in weather like this. Architectural anoraks will note the evidence of Gaudi’s late involvement in the cathedral’s design with the twin mini-spires at the far end. And your average Irish rural house owner will wonder how on earth they got planning permission for that mini-palace in splendid isolation hallway up the hillside, in a prime position alone among the trees

Now admittedly the drier less dense air of Palma as the Spring sunshine strengthens will exert significantly less pressure - windspeed-for-windspeed - than the current hyper-damp airstream in Ireland. Nevertheless on some days, the adjective “balmy” would not have sprung to mind. But in any case, though there have been some days that were marginal and it has ended with light airs, the Irish squad could tell themselves that it was all to the good to be pushing the envelope in experiencing a strong Mediterranean wind.

MISTRAL WINDS AT MARSEILLE FOR OLYMPICS?

For at the end of July this summer, they’ll be at Marseille for the opening of the ten-day 2024 Sailing Olympics, and by late July the chances of a Mistral-like wind are beginning to increase. Admittedly it was at the end of August 2018 that our 49er crew of Robert Dickson & Sean Waddilove first leapt to global fame by winning the class’s U23 Worlds at Marseille. But it should be noted that this video is just of the first day. By the weekend conclusion, it looked like much of their best work in that series was done in Mistral-like conditions, even if the locals assure everyone that the true Mistral only occurs around the beginning of Winter and the beginning of Spring.



(above vid) First day at the 2018 49er U23 Worlds at Marseilles

Be that as it may, it seems that the Irish weather here at home this weekend is out to show that supposedly fierce weather in Mallorca is only in the ha’penny place. For in what was planned as an unusually busy weekend post-Easter, but before the regular club-sailing programmes are fully under way, has become something of a survival stakes.

RACE OFFICERS ARE STRONG-MINDED FOLK

Yet Ireland’s Race Officers are a strong-minded bunch. They have to be, as many competitors – people who often have no personal race organisation experience themselves – will loudly announce that they could do a better job. Believe me, it’s not remotely as easy as it looks. But in any case, our Race Officers have to be thinking of the bigger picture, and in Cork with the Youth Nationals the underlying thinking will have been to slam through as many races as possible while it could still be done in order to have a viable result, even if the last two days are lost.

Thus the more serious junior classes (how else can we describe them?) of the 29ers, ILCA6s, and 420s which started their racing on Thursday not only got in a packed day of good if rainy sailing, but with a basic result obtained, any further sport is a bonus.

WHY NOT DOUBLE POINTS FOR FIRST RACE WHEN ISORA FINALLY GETS GOING?

Yet Peter Ryan of ISORA, in looking at the prospects for this morning’s seasonal opener - a coastal from Dun Laoghaire – didn’t have any options of flexibility of timing. This 6th April event is blown clean away, though currently described as “postponed”. But we hurlers on the ditches of sailing would suggest that, as a super-inducement, they give double points to the next planned ISORA Dun Laoghaire coastal on April 13th, and forget about any later re-staging of today’s blocked race.

Peter Ryan of ISORA – can he be persuaded to allocate double points when and if the Association’s programme finally gets going on April 13th?Peter Ryan of ISORA – can he be persuaded to allocate double points when and if the Association’s programme finally gets going on April 13th?

We’re dimly aware that this may contravene rules about the format and content and timing of the Notice of Race. However, a bit of flexibility is now surely needed to deal with the changes in climate that are currently being experienced and challenge the old ways of doing things.

304 YEARS OF IRISH SAILING PROGRAMMES

And perhaps it’s in this readiness to move on to the next fixture in the programme that we find the true resilience of our sailing. The Water Club of the Harbour of Cork had an admittedly rather broadly outlined and flexible fixture list for its first season in 1720. And nowadays the national programme is undoubtedly much longer and more complex. But in Cork Harbour this weekend, they know that the sailing life goes on, and there - and everywhere else - sailing spirits are kept up by contemplating any good news that’s coming down the line.

 The Water Club of the Harbour of Cork on fleet manoeuvres in 1738. Although the club did not officially organise races until 1765, it had an annual programme from its foundation in 1720. From the painting by Peter Monamy, courtesy Royal Cork YC. The Water Club of the Harbour of Cork on fleet manoeuvres in 1738. Although the club did not officially organise races until 1765, it had an annual programme from its foundation in 1720. From the painting by Peter Monamy, courtesy Royal Cork YC.

These days, the traditional club home programme may be seen as a reliably strong continuing background to the big signature events. But it means we know that by the end of April, club group launchings will have been completed, and the time-honoured annual home series of evening and weekend racing will be well under way.

MOST SAILORS HAVE SIMPLE PROGRAMME REQUIREMENTS

For a significantly large number of sailors, this is all they want from their sport and their club. Many of us live so close to our sailing bases that it would be an absurd waste of a convenient setup to have it otherwise. In these circumstances, there is no need to publicise regular entry lists, but where a special event is planned, there is no better time than early April to examine the cornucopia that is 2024’s sailing season.

CORNUCOPIA CLASH ’TWIXT HOWTH AND CLYDE AND KINSALE

And as ever with such a complex dish, there are clashes. People want their special major sailing specials to take place sometime between late May and early September, with the really hot dates traditionally being between mid-June and mid-August. Thus you’ll be treading on toes in trying to get your developing new event onto the fixtures ladder.

The Sun Fast 3300 Cinnamon Girl, sailed two-handed by Cian McCarthy & Sam Hunt, is seen here winning the inaugural Kinsale YC Inishtearaght Race in 2023. They plan to race it again on May 24th 2024, and then go on to the Two Handed Class in the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race in June. Photo: Robert BatemanThe Sun Fast 3300 Cinnamon Girl, sailed two-handed by Cian McCarthy & Sam Hunt, is seen here winning the inaugural Kinsale YC Inishtearaght Race in 2023. They plan to race it again on May 24th 2024, and then go on to the Two Handed Class in the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race in June. Photo: Robert Bateman

Howth Yacht Club may have been prepared to move their Porsche-sponsored Wave Regatta from the June Bank Holiday in recognition of that weekend’s growing importance as highly-rated family vacation time. But in doing so they’ve moved back to the last weekend of May, when they clash precisely with the Clyde Cruising Club’s Scottish Series at Tarbert on Loch Fyne, and Kinsale YC’s Inishtearaght Race, for which there are already 12 entries

Yet while the “boat entry overlap” may be numerically small, it has to be faced that it provides a quandary for some top contenders, with Pat Kelly’s J/109 Storm from Rush SC and John Minnis’s A35 Final Call II from Royal Ulster YC, formerly top contenders at both the Clyde and Howth events, now having to make the choice.

The Howth YC club-owned flotilla of J/80s racing in the Universities Keelboat Championship last weekend. Photo: Emmet DaltonThe Howth YC club-owned flotilla of J/80s racing in the Universities Keelboat Championship last weekend. Photo: Emmet Dalton

That said, there are many other crews who will be better suited, and the recent Universities Keelboat Championship in Howth saw a building of the J/80 fleet at Wave, with Organising Chairman Brian Turvey signing on winners University College Cork, plus Technical University Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, to campaign three of the boats with their college teams throughout Wave.

Wave Regatta Chairman and former Howth YC Commodore Brian Turvey with college captains Mikey Carroll (UCC, left), Peter Boyle (TUD, centre) and Harry Twomey (TCD, right), whose clubs have signed on to race J/80s at the Porsche Howth Wave regatta in the final weekend of May.Wave Regatta Chairman and former Howth YC Commodore Brian Turvey with college captains Mikey Carroll (UCC, left), Peter Boyle (TUD, centre) and Harry Twomey (TCD, right), whose clubs have signed on to race J/80s at the Porsche Howth Wave regatta in the final weekend of May.

NO SNAKES IN BANGOR

Looking on into June, the Bangor Regatta on Belfast Lough from June 27th to 30th may rule out boats still finishing the Round Ireland race, which might include RUYC’s own Alan Hannon with his new JPK 10.34 Coquine. But nevertheless each event has its own momentum and sphere of interest, and it’s entertaining to note that the acronym for the Bangor event has now become simply BR.

For, since the last regatta, Bangor has been elevated to city status. But many of the locals don’t take it seriously, and they’re certainly not going to make their steadily growing event - formerly known as the Bangor Town Regatta or BTR - into the menacing COBRA.

New magic-patterned North Sails testing aboard Alan Hannon’s Round Ireland-entered JPK 10.34 Coquine on Belfast Lough. Photo North Sails/ Maurice O’ConnellNew magic-patterned North Sails testing aboard Alan Hannon’s Round Ireland-entered JPK 10.34 Coquine on Belfast Lough. Photo North Sails/ Maurice O’Connell

REMEMBERING THE “GREAT RACE” OF 1860

July then sees a celebration of the daddy of them all, the Ocean Race of July 14th 1860 from Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour. Back in 1860 the premier fleet had racing in Dublin Bay, and then the venerable Admiral of the Royal Cork, Thomas G French, persuaded them to race to Cork Harbour for a similar series of local regattas. It was a true “first” in many ways, and Harry Donegan (1870-1940), that deservedly major figure in Cork sailing, managed to unearth the entry list for his History of Yachting in the South of Ireland, published 1908.

The Entry List for the pioneering Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour Race of July 1860. The winner was the 39-ton cutter Sibyl, sailed for owner Sir John Arnott by renowned amateur helmsman Henry O’BryenThe Entry List for the pioneering Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour Race of July 1860. The winner was the 39-ton cutter Sibyl, sailed for owner Sir John Arnott by renowned amateur helmsman Henry O’Bryen

FINAL DRAMA IN CORK HARBOUR

It finished in dramatically close style in light airs in Cork Harbour at the historic Royal Cork building at Cobh, and though there was a sort of re-sailing in the immediately post-pandemic year of 2022 as the Fastnet 450, to combine the unavoidably-missed 2020 Tricentenary of the Royal Cork and the 150th of the National YC, in 2024 it is planned to make it a more straightforward “Kingstown to Queenstown Race” on Saturday 13th July, which will make it a part of the ISORA programme, the SCORA programme, and a feeder for Volvo Cork Week from 15th to 19th July.

The 1854-built former clubhouse of the Royal Cork YC at Cobh will be used as the finish point of the “Kingstown-Queenstown” Race of 2024, as it was in 1860The 1854-built former clubhouse of the Royal Cork YC at Cobh will be used as the finish point of the “Kingstown-Queenstown” Race of 2024, as it was in 1860

BACK TO DUBLIN BAY

For some, that may be a peak of the season, but for others there’s still Calves Week in August at Schull in West Cork, and then the focus swings back to the East Coast with the last days of August and the first fortnight of September closing in on the Key Yachting J Cup, the ICRA Nats, and the IRC Euros in Dublin Bay.

When you remember that all that we’ve been focusing on here is mostly the cruiser-racer programme, then the full scale of our sport is seen in the one-designs and dinghies being in another world altogether. Either way, while having Storm Kathleen come to call is definitely not something we’d have wished for, the resilience and variety of our sailing are such that it will all emerge from her malevolent impact just as it has emerged from everything else.

The 1720 Euros will be a well-supported highlight of Volvo Cork Week. Photo: VCWThe 1720 Euros will be a well-supported highlight of Volvo Cork Week. Photo: VCW

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Due to Saturday's extreme weather forecast, ISORA's first coastal race is postponed until a date to be agreed upon amongst those skippers who entered the race.

As Afloat previously reported, ISORA boss Peter Ryan issued the Sailing Instructions (downloadable below) for the three- to four-hour race on Wednesday evening but warned, "If there is no significant improvement in the weather forecast by Friday lunchtime, I will be proposing that the race is postponed to a later date."

The next Irish coastal race in the Viking Marine Series is the following Saturday, the 13th April, with an 11.00 am start.

The course will be selected to provide a three to four-hour race.

"I’m hoping we can attract a good fleet, as four of the five races are part of the Vincent Farrell Trophy Series take place over the next four weekends," ISORA boss Peter Ryan told Afloat.

The last two races are on Sunday to avoid a clash with DBSC. "There are no excuses for boats not taking part", Ryan said.

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ISORA's first Dublin Bay Coastal race of the season is in doubt due to this Saturday's forecasted strong southerly winds.

A new JPK design is set to challenge reigning ISORA champion Rockabill VI in the Viking Marine-sponsored race to and from Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

ISORA boss Peter Ryan issued the Sailing Instructions (downloadable below) for the three- to four-hour race on Wednesday evening but warned, "If there is no significant improvement in the weather forecast by Friday lunchtime, I will be proposing that the race is postponed to a later date."

Coquine, a brand new JPK 1030 design from the JPK yard in France – a not-so-little sister – to the O'Higgins' vessel, is slated to join the ISORA fray from Belfast Lough under skipper Alan Hannon.

Also among the confirmed boats for Saturday are two J109s, Ruth from Dun Laoghaire and Indian from Howth.

Ryan explained he had been monitoring the weather forecast all week and believed it was "looking very grim" for Saturday's 11 am start.

As Afloat reported earlier, Met Eireann has issued a Small Craft Warning for all coasts of Ireland as a breezy weekend is forecast.

"It’s not the start to the season that we wanted," he told Afloat.

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Paul O'Higgins' championship-winning JPK10.80 Rockabill VI from the Royal Irish Yacht Club will be challenged by a smaller JPK 10.30 when the 2024 ISORA Viking Marine Coastal Series gets underway next Saturday morning at Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

Coquine, a brand new JPK 1030 design from the JPK yard in France – a not-so-little sister – to the O'Higgins' vessel, will join the ISORA fray from Belfast Lough under skipper Alan Hannon.

Also among the confirmed boats are the two J109s, Ruth from Dun Laoghaire and Indian from Howth.

The first Irish coastal has an 11.00 start and finish off Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay.

The course will be selected to provide a three to four-hour race.

"I’m hoping we can attract a good fleet, as four of the five races are part of the Vincent Farrell Trophy Series take place over the next four weekends," ISORA boss Peter Ryan told Afloat.

The last two races are on Sunday to avoid a clash with DBSC. "There are no excuses for boats taking part", Ryan said.

But some notable absences have already been signalled, with the First 50 Checkmate XX still on the hard. Also, from Howth, the Grand Soleil 44 Samatom is being sold, and skipper Robert Rendell is currently sailing across the Pacific, so there will be no ISORA racing for the Samatom crew this season. And from Dun Laoghaire, the J122 E Valentina is on the hard in Malahide.

However, all boats are hoping to make it to the second race.

Meanwhile, in Pwhelli, the Welsh ISORA fleet completed their first coastal race of the season on Saturday (March 30), with Andrew and Sam Hall's J125 Jackknife the overall IRC winner. See results below.

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Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA)  Chairman Peter Ryan is urging crews to enter for next month's first race of the Viking Marine Irish Coastal Series 2024 so class rating splits can be evenly prepared.

"Now that rugby is over, it's time to start thinking about sailing", Ryan told Afloat after Ireland secured back-to-back Six Nations titles after a 17-13 victory over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.

The Irish coastal series starts on the 6th of April from Dun Laoghaire Harbour, with four races on the following weekends.

New boats coming to the ISORA line this season are the J122 El Gran Senor that is the new Mojito from Pwllheli in North Wales

The five-race 'Irish Early Coastal Series' features races of three to five-hour duration.

ISORA Chairman Peter RyanISORA Chairman Peter Ryan

Ryan reminds competitors that 'Courses for races will be decided by time, not distance, to ensure we can have a get-together after each race'.

The final race in the coastal series is the night race in September.

ISORA signed off on a 'final' race schedule for 2024 in February. The version nine calendar released in February is "structured to avoid as many clashes as possible while facilitating boats doing the other events", according to Ryan.

Ryan previously referred to decreasing fleet numbers as 'the elephant in the room' when raising his concerns in the 2023 season. He asked fleet members for possible solutions to the drop in numbers as Afloat reported here.

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The potent J122E cruiser-racer Scottish 'El Gran Senor' from the Clyde Cruising Club will be renamed under new ownership when she embarks on her 2024 summer season, which includes next month's ISORA 2024 Offshore Series on the Irish Sea, Cork Week, the J Cup, IRC Europeans, ICRA Nationals, and the Pwllheli Challenge at the end of September.

Jonathan Anderson's navy blue-hulled 40-footer is now owned by former ISORA champions Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox from Pwllheli. They are moving up from their all-conquering J109, Mojito.

The move was prompted by the trend towards an increasingly bigger, faster fleet that makes it more and more difficult to race in the same conditions in the smaller J109.

Anderson's last Irish waters foray in 'El Gran Senor' was his second overall in the offshore class at Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2023 last July, and before that, it was third overall in the Coastal Class at June's Sovereign's Cup off Kinsale in county Cork.

Cox explained it has been a busy start to the 2024 season for the 2022 ISORA Champions in changing boats "All focus has been on selling the J109, getting the J122e up to the spec we are used to on Mojito and of course transferring branding. We couldn’t really race out of Pwllheli with the Saltire emblazoned on the hull could we!"

Cox revealed their new boat will be renamed Mojito in keeping with campaign tradition. 

"It has been known for people to wave and hail ‘Mojito’ when they bump into us in town if they only know us through sailing, so we couldn’t really leave that name behind. In fact, the name has moved with us from the start. From a Bavaria 39 Cruiser when we first met, briefly through an Elan 350 to the J109", she explained. 

Cox concedes that while she didn’t "personally see the need to change our old friend, the 109, as we know how she works and know what she likes to perform, racing offshore against an increasingly bigger, faster fleet makes it more and more difficult to race in the same conditions". 

"I can’t deny that we have benefited many times when winds have died and we’ve found ourselves up level with them on the water and had some fine results in the process" she pointed out.

"Conversely, there have also been times when we’ve been left floating in the bay for the night whilst the crews of bigger boats were all ensconced in the bar enjoying full refreshments before the wind shut off", she acknowledged to Afloat.

"I must admit getting back to the space available on a 40-foot boat is very welcome, and the guys from Scotland have definitely shown us that the J122e is capable of a trophy or two," Cox said.

It will be a busy season for the Mojito crew with the ISORA races starting in April, the IRC Welsh Championships to defend in Pwllheli (17th to 19th May), Cork Week in Cork Harbour,  the J Cup, IRC Europeans and the ICRA nationals all from the Royal Irish on Dublin Bay before returning for the Pwllheli Challenge at the end of September.

"There’s no doubt that we’ll be starting on a learning curve this season, but we’re looking forward to having plenty of fun in the process", Cox admits.

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Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) has signed off on a 'final' race schedule for 2024 

As regular Afloat readers know, the association was quick off the blocks at its agm when it published a draft schedule for its 2024 fixtures last November but has since issued several amendments.

The version nine calendar released in February is "structured to avoid as many clashes as possible while facilitating boats doing the other events", according to ISORA's chair, Peter Ryan.

An early season coastal series will see the Irish fleet's first race on April 6th, a month earlier than previously advertised. The race is part of a five-race 'Irish Early Coastal Series', featuring races of three to five-hour duration.

The first cross-channel race date remains the same on May 11th with a 75-mile Dun Laoghaire - Pwllheli fixture.

A highlight of the seven-race offshore season will be the 12th July Kingstown – Queenstown (Dun Laoghaire to Cork) race that carries a weighting of 1.3

Online entry will open shortly, Ryan told Afloat.

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

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

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

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

Competitions

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

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

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

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