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With many ISORA boat competing in the Fastnet race, a smaller than normal fleet of ten came to the start line in Dun Laoghaire on Saturday 5th August, with useful points in all three classes up for grabs writes Mark Thompson.

An early 08.00 downwind start under spinnaker in a 10kt south westerly which was forecast to reduce from the west during the day. There were many issues to contend with, a strong Irish Sea tide, and crucially the infamous Bardsey "tidal gate" which was in favour until 1530 or so and becoming slack until 16:30 After that with a strong tide against wind, progress through Bardsey would be a challenge!

Andrew Hall's J125 "Jackknife" relished the conditions and had no issues making the Bardsey gate, and enjoyed a great run across Hell’s Mouth recording speeds of 10kts or so and took line honours in an elapsed time of 9 hrs 41 mins followed by J122 Aurelia.

Chasing hard behind and making the Bardsey gate with 20 mins to spare, overall IRC winner yesterday J109 “Sgrech”, who carried the same spinnaker for the entire race, and only gybing three times. Stephen Tudor, skipper of “Sgrech”, described the whole race like a game of chess, with so many variables at play! Indeed J109 "Just Jay", just a couple of miles behind “Sgrech”, was forced to make several sail changes during the run to Bardsey, costing many minutes ! Second overall was Howth based J109 "Indian" who enjoyed their first Pwllheli race immensely. Mid fleet finishers recorded elapsed times of 12 -14 hours and managed to dodge the worst of the ebbing tide.

At the rear of the fleet in Class 3 "Elandra" and "Oystercatcher" missed the gate and took some time against the strong tide to get clear of Aberdaron bay. However "Oystrcatcher" elected to go round south of Bardsey meeting up with "Elandra" off Hell’s Mouth , and both finally finished between midnight and 1am. A great performance by these two class 2 boats who got valuable points in this class, with Sigma33 "Elandra" now leading this hotly contested class.

All competitors were warmly welcomed to Plas Heli, the Welsh National Sailing Academy, Pwllheli. Although busy hosting the Topper Nationals, the "Pwllheli Sailing Club" prepared a special ISORA "Sailors Stew" and jugs of beer for the weary crew. A great night was had by all and everyone connected with ISORA agreed it was another excellent Race.

This spices things up for the overall Wolf's Head trophy and it looks once again it's going to be a match race during the James Eadie race on the 9th September, between current Champion “Sgrech” and Mojito.

 

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The Lyver Race, after the postponement from the 30th June, took place on Friday 21st July writes Peter Ryan, Chairman of ISORA. The race is also an ISORA, RORC and a qualifier for the Fastnet Race. While 32 boats had entered the race for the original date, only 13 boats came to the start line in Holyhead last Friday.

The weather forecast for the race was for light to moderate southerly winds to back to westerly during the night and early morning. There was also strong tides.

The race start was provided by Liverpool Yacht Club committee boat at the Clipera buoy outside Holyhead Harbour. The course was as follows: Start - TSS Area (P) – M2 (S) – Rockabill (P) – Kish Light (S) – South Burford (S) and Finish between the pier heads in Dun Laoghaire – 100 miles.

The area of the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) was identified by a series of coordinates and all boats were to keep out of this area.

 The downwind start saw “Rockabill VI” and “Jackknife” making a clean start and leading the fleet north in a light easterly breeze. Immediately behind these were the three J109’s “Sgrech”, Mojito” and Jedi”. These boats continued to match race for the entire 100 miles.

Rounding the top of the TSS the fleet were still under spinnaker as they headed towards M2. On this leg the fleet split with “Jackknife” and “Rockabill VI” taking a southerly route and the other maintaining a more northerly line. Even after the M2 the fleet were still under spinnaker and as the fleet approached Rockabill it was evident that the northerly line was paying off. The winds remained south easterly and had not backed as forecast.

“Jackknife”, although first around Rockabill, had not made sufficient distance from the following fleet and “Mojito” followed next and was leading the fleet. At that stage only three boat lengths serapated “Mojito” from “Sgrech”. “Jedi” had fall a small distance behind.

The leg to the Kish was a fetch against the tide. On this leg “Sgrech” just managed to inch in front of “Mojito” and rounded the Kish ahead of them. The last leg in towards Dun Laoghaire was a full run in slackening easterly winds and against the now ebbing tide.

“Jackknife” took line honours and Class 0 IRC but only managed 4th Overall IRC. “Sgrech” managed to hoild the slight lead into the harbour, finishing just 2 minutes 26 seconds ahead of “Mojito” but enough to give “Sgrech” the Overall IRC Win and Class 1 IRC. “Elandra” took Class 2. In ECHO, “Jackknife” took Overall and Class 0 while “Sgrech” too class 1 and “Elandra” took Class 2. Full results can be found on www.isora.org

The wind by “Sgrech” reduces “Mojito”’s lead in the Overall Wolf’s Head series. However with “Mojito” heading off the compete in the Fastnet Race, they will miss the next offshore on the 5th August and their lead may reduce even further. All this opens up the competition and may develop a repeat of last year when the Overall Series was dependant on the results of the last race. The last Offshore is the Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire race on the 9th September.

The presentation of the Lyver Trophy and RORC medallions will take place at the ISORA dinner in the National Yacht Club on the 11th November.

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Due to the postponement of the Lyver Race last weekend it has be announced that the Royal Dee Jack Ryan Whiskey Irish Sea Offshore Championship will be decided by the four Offshore Class races of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta to take place this week.

All boats entered for the VDLR Offshore Class qualify for the Offshore Championship. Download the flyer attached below.

While the VDLR has only two classes on the Offshore section – IRC and ECHO, the Offshore Championship will have three IRC classes and three ECHO classes.

There will be daily prizes for each class winner that will be presented immediately after the daily VDLR prize giving, to take place in each club. The Overall champions will be awarded two Royal Dee YC Trophies – the “Tide Race Cup” for IRC Overall Champion and the “Mostyn Vicar Memorial Trophy” for the ECHO Champion.

All races can be followed as each boats will have a YB tracker.

Jack Ryan whiskey

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Friday's ISORA Lyver Race from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire has been defered due to weather conditions.

Strong northerly winds are forecast to blow all day today at Dun Laoghaire.

'Due to weather conditions preventing boats delivering to Holyhead for the Lyver Race it has been decided to defer the race to Friday, July 21st at 2000 hours, ISORA Chief Peter Ryan told Afloat.ie.

The stage was set for a duel between the two leading J109s with the Lyver race counting for extra points.

Several other factors have arisen that also influenced the decision to postpone. The recent difficult D2D Race, where over half the fleet retired, had resulted in many of the boats who had entered the Lyver Race, withdrawing. It had been expected that 38 boats would have taken part in the race but the list of starters had dwindled to 22 and that number was expected to significantly reduce again due to the delivery difficulties.

One of the main concerns of participants doing the Lyver Race was the requirement to qualify for the Fastnet Race – 100 mile race with a night passage. To accommodate this, the new date for the race will allow those boats to still qualify for the Fastnet Race and still allow adequate time to make their passage to Cowes.

Peter Ryan, Chairman of ISORA, stated that as the Lyver Race was part of the RDYC Irish Sea Offshore Championship, the rescheduled race will remain part of that event. While it had been planned that the Irish Sea Offshore Championship would have been awarded at the end of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta, this will now occur on the 22nd July after the postponed Lyver Race and as part of that prize giving.

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The Commodore of the Royal Dee Yacht Club, Alastair Soane, has announced that “Jack Ryan Whiskey” is to sponsor the Royal Dee Yacht Club Irish Sea Offshore Championship that starts with the “Lyver Race” from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire this Friday, 30th June 2017 with two J109s vying for the ISORA series lead.

Heading into the Lyver Race, the seventh race in the ISORA series, “Mojito” is leading the series ahead of “Jedi” by approximately 50 points. While these two boats appear to be well ahead of the remainder of the fleet, the high scoring system, when taken with discards and race weightings, can make dramatic changes to the positions. The Lyver Race carries a weighting of 1.3, the highest weighting of any race in the series and therefore will have a significant effect on the scoring.

Jedi J109 LyverJedi, the INSS Sailing School J109 entry is second overall in ISORA Photo: Afloat.ie

Nine of the twelve leading boats will be taking part in the Lyver race. However, many of them will be heading south later in the season to take part in the Fastnet Race and will not be competing in the later races. All is left to fight for and things will be a lot clearer on Saturday evening.

The ISORA Championship consist of the cumulative results from five offshore and coastal races, the Lyver Race and the four coastal races in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. As there are no discards, the championship is open to all boats taking part in these races.

Prize giving will take place after each race for all class winners in both IRC and ECHO and Overall prizes will take place at the VDLR Main prize giving in the RStGYC.

Jack Ryan whiskey

Jack Ryan Whiskey, the family-owned independent finisher and bottler of premium Single Malt Irish Whiskey, won a Gold medal for their 12 Year Old, and recently a Silver medal for The Bourdega 15 Year Old - at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The whiskey is also associated with the famous Ryan’s Beggars Bush public house in Haddington Road, Dublin and. as regular readers will no doubt be aware there are strong connections to a leading ISORA sailor too. 

For more information on this whiskey brand click here.

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Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI has been piling up the pressure from the front on the chasing opposition in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2017 writes W M Nixon. She swept up to Skellig Michael at 8.8 knots in the sou’wester around 1730 hrs well in the lead, and then in shaping her course into Dingle Bay with twenty miles to the finish, she was still going good at only slightly reduced speed of 7.1 knots.

Tracker here

On down the line, fortunes have varied enormously, and anyone watching the Tracker has felt helpless as one boat after another wandered into the local flat patch at Mizen Head, with their speed falling right away.

Rockabill D2D 2017The Royal Irish YC Rockabill VI crew on the D2D were Paul O'Higgins, Conor O'Higgins, Mark Pettit, Ian O'Meara, Peter Wilson, William Byrne, Rees Kavanagh and Ian Heffernan Photo: Afloat.ie

The gallant charge of the Spirit 54 Soufriere (Stephen O’Flaherty & David Cagney) came to a virtual halt here. For long enough – or so it seemed - the Two-handed Division leader sat almost paralysed at barely a knot while smaller lighter boats such as Andrew Algeo’s J/109 Juggerknot, which had been right beside her, were able to slip away in the slightest sharpening of the light air and get back up to speed off the mouth of Dunmanus Bay.

But now Soufriere has got herself going again at 1800hrs, and is getting up to speed at 6.8 knots, yet the J/109s around her – with Juggerknot a bit over a mile ahead and Ruth (Shanahan family) much the same distance astern astern – are matching the pace.

Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox’s leading J/109 Mojito is in turn just under three miles ahead of Juggerknot, but that puts her all of 15 miles behind Rockabill, which has been sailing a remarkable race. But then you’d expect that with helmsmen of the calibre of Mark Pettit and Peter Wilson aboard, the latter having an unrivalled record in this race as he played a key role when Richard Burrows’ Sigma 36 Black Pepper was overall winner of the first dash to Dingle in 1993.

Within classes, the Tyrrell family’s J/112E Aquelina continues in a solid lead in the Cruiser Division, and is midway between the Fastnet Rock and Mizen Head making 6.4 knots on course, while in Racing Division 2, the leader on the water, Irish Offshore Sailing’s Jeanneau 37 Desert Star skippered by the sailing school’s principal Ronan O’Siochru, is currently nearing the Fastnet. However, Ian Hickey and his Cork crew on the Granada 38 Cavatina are close enough astern to maintain their corrected time lead, while Desert Star is second.

We maligned that tough old salt Liam Coyne in the First 36.7 Lula Belle by suggesting in an earlier report today that the Round Britain and Ireland Race class winner had retired into Kinsale this morning. Lula Belle did indeed go into Kinsale Marina at about three minutes to eight this morning, but at 8 o’clock she was heading straight back out again, having presumably made the necessary drop-off of a crewman. Lula Belle is currently pacing along at better than 5 knots between Desert Star and Cavatina, currently lying third in Racing 2 where a right old ding-dong is clearly developing for the top three places.

Further down the line, the two tiny Mini Transat 650s Port of Galway Green and Port of Galway Black are by no means last on the water, and they’re just about in sight of each other and having a real race, with Green (Yannick Lemonnier and DanMill) leading from Black (Marcus Ryan).

At time of writing (1830 hrs Friday) it’s looking hopeful for a daylight finish for Rockabill VI, as she has been logging 7.3 knots tacking downwind, and has just 15 miles to go to the finish. That said, strange things can happen to the winds of Dingle Bay as evening draws on, and even as we finish writing thisdispatch, the leader’s speed has dropped to 6.9 knots...

Published in Dun Laoghaire Dingle

On Saturday, 3rd June, due to a clash of events, the Howth YC’s Lambay Races and the Poolbeg Y&BC’s Regatta, both of which ISORA committed to incorporate, a new race format evolved writes Peter Ryan. The way to take part in both events was developed by ISORA. The ISORA fleet would have their start as part of the HYC Lambay Race and complete that course. The fleet would then sail through that finish line and continue on the Poolbeg Y&BC to a second finish at Poolbeg Lighthouse.

This was made manageable by the use of the YB trackers recording the first finish at “Stack” mark off Ireland’s Eye. The ISORA / Poolbeg Y&BC Race was sponsored by Dublin Port.

Howth Race Officer David Lovegrove started the fleet of 25 boats with an downwind leg from “Viceroy” mark towards Lambay Island. The weather forecast was for 5-15 Knots SE and this weather arrived at the start area.

The full course for the race was:

Start at “Viceroy”
Taylor’s Buoy (S)
Lambay Island (S)
“Portmarknok” (P)
“Stack” (S) – Finish of Lambay Race
North Burford (S)
Finish off Poolbeg Lighthouse
25 miles approx

Conditions start to get fickle as the fleet rounded Lambay Island. Andrew Hall’s “Jacknife” led the fleet followed by George Sisk’s “WOW” and Paul O’Higgins “Rockabill VI”. Four J109’s were also bunched behind these leaders, Vicky Cox’s “Mojito”, Liam Shanahan’s “Ruth”, Kenneth Rumball’s Irish National Sailing School “Jedi” and Roger Smith’s “Wakey Wakey”. There was significant and constant variation in wind conditions across the course varying from 5 to 15 knots. The leg to Portmarnock was a beat. The varying conditions spread the fleet widely and places were won and lost from tack to tack.

Jedi J109 ISORAThe Kenneth Rumball skippered Irish National Sailing School entry “Jedi” leads on ECHO handicap. Photo: Afloat.ie

As the fleet approached “Portmarnock” some confusion arose with advice from the Race Committee that the mark was “missing” and they were replacing it with a RIB flying an M flag. When the fleet arrived at the location, the RIB had stood down and the mark had been replaced. Fortunately for most of the fleet, this did not lead to any difficulties.

The last leg of the Lambay course was led by “WOW” who took line honours. “Mojito” took IRC Overall and Grant Kinsman’s “Thalia” took ECHO Overall. A Prize giving by Howth YC is to be arranged.

The fleet then continued towards Poolbeg in even flukier conditions. On this leg, the front boats were experiencing very light condition while those boats at the back of the fleet had good wind which had now verred west. This bunched the fleet as it rounded North Burford for the beat to the finish at Poolbeg.

The Overall winner of the IRC Section of the Poolbeg Y&BC Regatta and the ISORA race was “Rockabill VI” with five J Boats taking the next places – “Mojito”, “Jedi”, “Ruth”, Chirs Power’s “Aurelia” and “Wakey Wakey”. Derek Dillon’s “Big Deal” from Foynes YC took Class 2.

In ECHO, two Sigmas took first and second place with Grant Kinsman’s Sigma 400 “Thalia” beating Joe Conway’s Sigma 33 “Elandra”, ahead of “Jedi” and “Big Deal”.

Most of the finishing boats made their way down the river to Poolbeg Y&BC where a great “Beach Party” was arranged. A BBQ and music ensured that the party went on well in to the night. A prize giving for the IRC and ECHO winners and placing took place with Commodore Roger Smith making the presentations.

After 5 races “Mojito” is leading the IRC Section of the ISORA Averycrest Offshore Series with “Jedi” and “Aurelia” close behind. In ECHO, “Jedi”, “Elandra” and Paul Hampson’s “MoJo” from Liverpool are top of the series. A lot will be decided by the start of july with the D2D Race, Lyver Race and the Adrian Lee & Partners “Lighthouse Race” as part of the VDLR. Full results are here.

The next race in the ISORA schedule is the D2D race on the 14th June. A fleet of 45 boats are expected to line up for this race and a great social itinerary is arrange for those boats arriving in Dingle.

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Race 4 in ISORA’s Averycrest Offshore Series 2017 took place on Saturday 27th May with the J109 Indian skippered by Colm Buckley taking the IRC overall win in the race from Dun Laoghaire to Arklow reports Peter Ryan. From the original entry list of 36 boats, 28 confirmed starting. However six boats pulled out at the last minute.

For the week leading up to the race, the weather forecasts were predicting southerly winds. There was also extremely strong tides that day.

As the day of the race approached the different sources of weather forecast varied widely. Some were predicting northerly winds, some southerly and other westerly. In wind strength, the forecasts varied for 0-25 knots!! Rain and no rain was also forecast. The feeling was that there was going to be light conditions at the start anyway and the fleet would be punished by the exceptional tide while trying to make their way south.

This uncertain weather with the strong tides was a major factor in the reason why some boats pulled out.

Due to the conditions forecast the course was:
Start at Dun Laoghaire
Muglins (S)
South Arklow (S)
Finish in Arklow

isora startWith seconds to the start gun, at least six boats in the 22–boat the fleet manage to be on the line, despite the absence of any wind and the presence of a strong flood tide pushing them back.....

The start was provided by at DBSC Pier mark by Larry Power and Barry MacNeaney. Just prior to the race the weather readings from the Dublin Bay Buoy was 2-3 knots South West. In preparation of this start scenario, where the entire fleet would be pushed back from the line at the start and not able to cross it, The Sailing Committee decided to invoke the “ISORA starting protocol”. In this protocol the committee boat would stand down at 10 minutes after the start signal and after that, any boats that have not crossed the start line would leave the pin end to (P).

JedI ISORA startThe Irish National Sailing School's JedI looks to have made the best start by far in the drifting conditions with spinnaker drawing nicely and to be two boat lengths clear in Scotsman's Bay but....

JedI ISORA ocs...just moments later the kite is down on the sailing school entry as skipper Kenny Rumball heads back to the line to avoid a penatly for a  premature start
Obviously the “Wind Gods” favour ISORA and Offshore Racing as they provided 5 knots westerly immediately before the start that was sufficient to propel the fleet under spinnaker towards the Muglins. However, even the Wind Gods can change their mind and the wind dropped soon after the start.

Sgrech ISORA stephen tudorAll eyes on sail trim on board Sgrech, the J109 entry from Pwllheli
This drop in wind scattered the fleet, with some boats heading in towards land to get out of the foul tide while others hunted out to sea in search of zephyrs. It took over one and a half hours for the first boat to complete the 1.5 miles to the Muglins.

Rockabill spinnaker JPK10.80JPK10.80 Rockabill keeps her spinnaker filling in the very light winds off Dalkey – 44 miles to go!
It was Andrew Halls’s “Jackknife” and Chris Power-Smith’s “Aurelia” who appeared to dominate the position at the Muglins. Paul O’Higgins “Rockabill VI” who had taken the land side appeared to be stalled against the land only to accelerate across Dalkey Sound and nudge in behind the leading boats.

At this stage the wind started to build to 5-7 knots northerly and just enough to allow most of the fleet to make progress south against the tide.

Tide on markA two–knot flood tide meant the 22–boat fleet took an hour to exit Dublin Bay with Andrew Hall's Jackknife the first to reach the Muglins rock (below)

ISORA Dublin bay
For such a huge tide, the tidal currents did not appear to be generally exceptional? As the fleet approached Wicklow Head the wind disappeared completely. Fortunately the tide had now started to ebb and was helping the fleet south. Despite no wind, the locally strong tides around Wicklow Head pushed the fleet south past the head at nearly 5.0 knots! Adding to the challenge of the race, torrential rain fell on the fleet around Wicklow.

Sgrech J109 crewPeter Ryan, Stephen and Thomas Tudor and Andrew Rosewarne 'enjoying' the torrential rain onboard 'Sgrech'

The next decision after passing Wicklow Head was what side of the Arklow Bank would boats go? The decision was mostly easily made as boats “found” themselves one side or the other in the slack winds.

The next twist came at the Arklow Bank when suddenly the wind appeared from the West and increased rapidly to 20-24 knots. The boats that had found themselves in at the shore were now reaching fast towards South Arklow while those outside the Arklow Bank were beating for the mark.

Again at the South Arklow buoy, the enormity of the south going tide was obvious as boats “crabbed” around the mark trying to avoid hitting it!!

The final 10 mile leg to the finish in Arklow was a fetch in the strong westerly winds. As the first boats finished, the tide had turned again assisting those boats towards the back of the fleet.

“Jackknife” took line honours will Colm Buckley’s J109 “Indian”, who had no YB tracker fitted, took IRC Overall and Class 1. Two more J109’s, Peter Dunlop’s “Mojito” and Roger Smith’s “Wakey Wakey” took 2nd and 3rd place IRC Overall and Class 1. Paul O’Higgings “Rockabill VI” took IRC Class 0 while Joe Conway’s “Elandra” took Class 2.
The new “ISORA Progressive ECHO” proved to work well with Brian Hett’s “Oystercatcher” taking ECHO Overall and Class 1 while “Elandra” took 2nd ECHO Overall and Class 2 and Grant Kinsman’s “Thalia” took ECHO 3rd Overall and Class 0.

The ISORA fleet had not been to Arklow before but they were met with a huge welcome from Mark Fallon, Commodore of Arklow Sailing Club and all the members there. The large numbers of tired sailors who made their way to the very comfortable Clubhouse were reward with a complimentary BBQ and some live music. All this ensured that another great ISORA Apres Sail took place.

The next race in the Series will be a unique event in that the ISORA Day race will incorporate two other events and have two finishes. Howth YC will provide a start to the ISORA fleet and send them around their Lambay Race course and provide a finish to the Lambay Race off Howth. The fleet will pass though that finish line and proceed to the ISORA race finish line, provided by Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club, that will be located at the mouth of the Dublin Port channel. They are taking part in the Dublin Port Riverfest being organised by Dublin Port. Berthing facilities will be available for competing yachts so they can take part in this festival along the river. Separate entry will be required for the HYC Lambay Race and this can be made online. HYC will be awarding prizes for this part of the race. 

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A fleet of 28 ISORA yachts is heading south from Dublin Bay to Arklow this morning at 8am, a 48–mile coastal race that is expected to finish later this afternoon.

The great turnout is a boost for offshore sailors who already saw a turnout of 36 for the Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire Race a fortnight ago. Read W M Nixon's race preview in his Saturday blog here.

Arklow Sailing Club is preparing to welcome the fleet for the first time in many years.

The course choice for the fourth race in the Avery Crest ISORA 2017 series is as follows: Start off Dun Laoghaire - Muglins Island (S) - South Arklow (S) - N52 40.200' W5 58.892' and Finish off Arklow. 

J109 ISORAVery light winds and an adverse tide meant this morning's exit from Dublin Bay took over an hour. With 32 miles still to sail to Arklow, British J109 Wakey Wakey (above with pink spinnaker) leads the 21–boat fleet on IRC while Stephen Tudor’s sistership Sgrech (blue spinnaker) is fifth. See current positions via tracker below Photo: Afloat.ie

The finish off Arklow could yet prove decisive becuase competitors are required to navigate to finish on a transit between Gypsum Chimney (On Land) at co-ordinates N 52 47.767' W 6 08.600' to the ASC Gypsum Mark (200 Lit Red Drum, 1 meter high) at co-ordinates N 52-47.764’ W 6-8.270’ and crossing in the direction from the previous mark.

The latest instructions to skipper stresses that the finish line is, as described above, between the co-ordinates, and NOT at the mark. The coordinate should be used as a waypoint gate in the navigation. This is to facilitate the YB trackers that track the fleet during the race.

ISORA greystonesSpinnakers filling as the ISORA fleet pass Greystones Harbour in the rain. Photo: Aaron O'Gorman/Facebook

Track the fleet on the race tracker below: 

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Despite some interruptions from either too much or too little wind, the regular club sailing programme for 2017 is now fully under way, and this weekend is additionally so well filled with major regional and national events that you could be forgiven for thinking it’s high summer already. W M Nixon tries to make sense of it all.

How on earth is anyone expected to fully understand, let alone explain, a global activity which today sees the extraordinary 1,500 boat Festival of Sail in the Morbihan in France putting in its final races and fleet manoeuvres, before everyone joins in the end-of-show Parade of Sail tomorrow?

Yet at the same time, across the Atlantic in Bermuda, the first moves in the 35th edition of the America’s Cup, arguably the world’s oldest international sporting contest as it goes back to 1851, are getting under way, involving sailing machines for which the word “boat” seems somewhat inappropriate.

americas cup2It’s difficult to think of them as anything other than “sailing machines,” but America’s Cup rules reckon they are boats
morbihan fleet3Some of the huge fleet at the current Morbihan festival. In their midst is the bisquine-rigged La Cancalaise from Cancale. In the days of piracy, smuggling and privateering in the English Channel, it was reckoned that any vessel setting this demanding high-performance rig was up to no good, and therefore a legitimate target for government ships

Then too, the world sailing community is still digesting the revelation that future generations of boats in the Volvo World Race, which now rivals the America’s Cup for international attention, will be in effect IMOCA 60s with mega-foils.

And in addition to that, at each in-harbour stopover, the world-girdling Volvo Ocean Race crews will be expected to do a series of races in smaller but very potent multi-hulls which will thrill spectators with their closeness to the watching crowds and to each other, with hair’s breadth misses – and ideally the occasional not-too-serious shunt - a central part of the action.

All these major international events then have to be fitted around the reality that, like it or not, sailing is one of those minority sports that need the Olympics more than the Olympics need sailing. In other words, we have to keep the decks clear of other major international fixtures to give total attention when the next sailing Olympiad at Tokyo comes along in 2020.

For those who would snort in derision at such a suggestion, do tell us what you were doing (if you can remember) while the rest of Ireland held its breath and watched as Annalise Murphy was sailing towards her Silver Medal on August 16th 2016?

Nevertheless, having taken all that into account, the reality is that the top end of sailing is reaching ever-higher peaks of performance in everything, and inevitably using boats and equipment of unimaginable expense. So except for the Morbihan event - whose ethos is found in going the other way, with total democratic involvement for everyone - how on earth can ordinary sailors relate to what the participants in the America’s Cup and the Volvo World Race are experiencing?

Let’s be honest. We can only do so - if at all - with some mighty leaps of the imagination. The result is that many of us are going back to the knitting. We’re going back to trusted events, and staying with sailing boats which may not be in the first flush of youth, but at least they mean something to us.

We know that with them, we can find racing which bears some relation to everyday life rather than the other-world dreamscape which is the America’s Cup or the Volvo World Race.

Over the next two weekends in Ireland, this racing of familiar boats will move up a couple of gears, as this weekend is the Bank Holiday in the North, and in a week’s time the extra day off is in the Republic. So keen sailors who see their programme on an all-Ireland basis somehow manage to convince themselves that we have two all-island Bank Holidays on the trot.

claddagh festival4Galway hookers gather at the Claddagh, while above them is the Galway City Museum, currently staging a Marine Science Exhibition.

Thus the ongoing Claddagh Festival with all varieties of Galway Hookers on show in the City of the Tribes is also managing to welcome Viking longships which have been brought overland from their home port of Ardglass in County Down. And at least the northerners have the proper claim that, for them, Monday is a free day to get their boats home again.

That equally applies to northern visitors to the Woodenboat Festival in Baltimore, which got going last night and should have good weather from midday onwards today, and through tomorrow’s colourful programme. Nevertheless for those with a day job to think about, the long haul home on Sunday night can become very long indeed.

baltimore aerial5Baltimore in West Cork - the perfect location for a friendly Woodenboat Festival

baltimore woodenboat festival6It’s not quite racing, but when a Galway hooker (left) finds competition at Baltimore Woodenboat Festival with a traditional West Cork boat, there’s certainly an added edge to the sailing. Photo Sheena Jolley

Both these events are traditional annual festivals in which racing plays only a small – if any – part. But even in competitive sailing, all the signs are that people are returning to beef up the numbers and competition in events which served them well in the past, yet had slipped in the popularity ratings owing to a change in behavioural patterns (the modern family is an extremely demanding taskmaster), and the ill-effects of the economic recession.

Everyone has been heartened by the new strength of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (to which we’ll return in a minute), but today the top of the agenda is the Scottish Series, getting up to speed at the lovely little port of Tarbert on Loch Fyne. Of course, numbers are nothing like the eventually unmanageable crowd of boats which became a feature of this series about twenty years ago. But nevertheless there’s a tidy fleet at Tarbert, and a strong Irish contingent are in with more than shout of bringing home the big prize.

tarbert loch fyne7Packing them in – the Scottish Series fleet in Tarbert

hunters racing8The Hunter 707 fleet provided some of the best racing at last year’s Scottish Series

seaword wins9Dara O’Malley (second left) and his winning crew on Seaword, which made him Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for May 2016. Photo: Marc Turner

Last year it was one of the diaspora, Dara O’Malley originally from Westport but now sailing on the Firth of Forth with his Hunter 707 Seaword, who was tops. While he may be Scottish-based, he was home among us in January to receive his Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” Award for May 2016 at the National Sailing Awards in the RDS.

He is defending this weekend, and another former overall winner is the irrepressible Rob McConnell from Dunmore East. With an almost entirely Waterford Harbour SC crew, Rob’s A35 Fool’s Gold is reportedly in particular good trim this year, so definitely a boat to watch.

Other strong performers from Ireland over in Tarbert include the Kelly family from Rush with their J/109 Storm, and that highly individualistic helmsman renowned for pulling rabbits out of the hat, Johnny Swan with his classic Half Tonner Harmony from Howth. Strangford Lough is sending the notably steady perfomer Jay Colville with his successful First 40 Forty Licks, while all the way from Cork Harbour is the First 36.7 Altair (K Dorgan & J Losty) of Cove Sailing Club, recalling the enthusiasm of a high order which used to be a feature of the O’Leary family’s years with the Corby 36 Antix from Crosshaven, an overall winner in Scotland on more than one occasion.

fools gold scotland10They might do it again......Rob McConnell (fourth left) and his mostly Dunmore East crew after winning the Scottish Series in 2015 on the Archambault 35 Fool’s Gold. Photo: Marc Turner

The continuing growth of the J/109s, which have needed ten years to become an overnight success in Ireland, is shown by the additional presence in Scotland of two of Storm’s sister-ships from home, Andrew Craig’s Chimaera and John & Brian Hall’s Something Else, while a smaller manifestation of the J Boat range’s ubiquitous nature is the participation of Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules from Howth.

It’s an interesting crew setup, as Lambay Rules’ core team, including Stephen Quinn himself, have been seen racing in the elegance of Stephen O’Flaherty’s Spirit 54 Soufriere, whose claims to fame include a role in a James Bond movie. Despite the obvious differences between the two boats, the key personnel – including Stephen O’Flaherty – moved aboard the little Lambay Rules for last year’s Volvo Round Ireland Race, and despite being one of the smallest boats in the fleet (in fact, I think she was the smallest), at several stages they were leading their class, but not alas at the finish.

Their determined involvement in Scotland says much for their continuing zest in the game, but meanwhile back home the presence of so many significant boats over in Scotland has done little to diminish numbers for this morning’s ISORA Race from Dun Laoghaire to Arklow, which will see 28 starters.

PHOTO HERE
isora starters11The lineup for today’s ISORA-Dun Laoghaire Race
Very senior ISORA contenders have a feeling that they must have raced to Arklow before, but maybe they’re confusing it with ISORA races which took in the Arklow Lightvessel as a mark of the course, and it’s undoubtedly a very long time since a lightship was on the Arklow Bank.

Certainly ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan says that this is the first time an ISORA Race has finished in Arklow, where the local sailing club has been expanding in a healthy style, while on the bigger canvas, the Tyrrell family with their succession of ever-larger and successful craft in the J Boat range – all called Aquelina – has done much to have Arklow SC punching way above its weight on the national offshore racing scene.

The Tyrrells were too far ahead of the curve when they got their first Aquelina, a J/109, shortly after the new marque was introduced. Their hopes of getting a semi-One-Design J/109 class going didn’t take off. But today, racing their current J/122E Aquelina back to their home port, they’ll ruefully observe that there are at least five J/109s racing with them, a goodly number when we remember that three of the Dublin class are in Scotland, and several others are staying in Dun Laoghaire to do today’s Dublin Bay SC race.

j109s on dublin bay12It has taken them ten years to become an overnight success, but the J/109s are now a very significant presence in Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie

However, one of the latest J/09s to join the Greater Dublin class is Indian, owned by Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles of Howth. They won the two-handed class in the 2015 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race in the smaller Elan Blue Eyes, but this race to Arklow is their first serious offshore challenge in the J/109. It will be a proper test, as the J/109 contingent includes Peter Dunlop’s Mojito and Stephen Tudor’s Sgrech, both from Pwllheli and respectively first and second of the J/109s in the Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire race a fortnight ago.

But the boat for everyone to beat is Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, whose remarkable all-round ability was demonstrated with the overall win in the increasingly breezy Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire Race of May 13th. These JPK 10.80s are superb performers across a wide range of conditions, and the simple fact of knowing they have such a good boat under them is an added encouragement for Paul O’Higgins and his crew of all the talents.

The highly technical approach of racing a boat like Rockabill VI is a whole world away from the intimate world of wooden boat adherents getting together in Baltimore, or the historical, cultural and music-laden gathering of the traditional craft and their visiting Vikings in Galway. But that’s the way it is in the very wide world of boats and sailing. In the end, we’re all members of the same exceptionally diverse sailing community.

Rockabill paul o higgins13The boat to beat – Paul O’Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI is a superb all-rounder

Published in W M Nixon
Page 7 of 27

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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