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The 56ft traditional ketch Ilen under the command of Paddy Barry has been making excellent progress since departing Greenland on Sunday evening, and is already halfway home to Ireland along the 1200 mile passage from Prince Christian Sund writes W M Nixon. Fair winds have kept her steadily on her way, and the stylishly-decorated squaresail with its Salmons Wake logo has been earning its keep in maintaining comfortable yet efficient downwind progress.

Back in the early stages of the Greenland project, it had been expected that Ilen would not see Ireland again until around 10th September. But the 1926 Conor O’Brien of Limerick-designed and Baltimore-built ship has been going so well that an extra dimension has been added to the programme, and now she will head straight for Kinsale and be based there for September, fulfilling courses with the Sailing into Wellness movement, and implementing sailing teaching with her own Ilen Boat-building School trainees.

All being well, Ilen will be arriving in Kinsale in the latter half of next week.

aboard ilen squaresail2Ilen’s squaresail in action in one of south Greenland's many steep-sided channels. The squaresail has been exceptionally useful in the current downwind conditions in mid-Atlantic, sailing home to Ireland.

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Limerick’s restored 56ft Conor O’Brien-designed 1926-built traditionally-rigged trading ketch Ilen emerged yesteray evening (Sunday) from the eastern end of Prince Christian Sound to start her passage back to Ireland writes W M Nixon. The magnificent Sound - noted for its dramatic scenery - leads inside the archipelago of steep islands which culminate in Greenland’s most southerly headland of Cape Farewell. By negotiating it safely, the crew of Ilen - under the command of Paddy Barry with traditional west of Ireland boat sailors Jarlath Cunnane and Dr Mick Brogan added to the strength for the return voyage - have brought themselves within 12000 miles of Loop Head and a homecoming in the Shannon Estuary.

While coast-hopping south from the Greenland capital of Nuuk, Ilen’s home-coming crew have learned more about the ship’s handling characteristics, and a favourable wind through some channels has demonstrated how effectively the square-sail – complete with its Salmons Wake logo highlighting the central theme of the voyage – can be conveniently deployed on its own when dead-running, thereby avoiding the challenges of using the heavily-boomed mainsail with its hazards when gybing in stronger and often gusty winds.

squaresail in sunshine2 Running free without the hassle of gybing a heavy-boomed mainsail – Ilen heads comfortably under square-sail into a Greenland channel, Jarlath Cunnane on right.

The crew have taken the opportunity to avail of natural hot spring baths when they’ve been anchored near one, while every option has been taken to get the vessel in compact ocean-going condition and add to ship’s stores to ensure a well-fed homeward passage. The forecast for the coming days in the area of the North Atlantic where Ilen will be voyaging is currently looking quite favourable in terms of wind directions and strength, and the ship and her crew’s many followers worldwide wish her Bon Voyage.

ilen swim pool3 The cleanest clean they’ve ever been……..Ilen’s crew making good use of one of Greenland’s natural hot spring pools. Photo: Mantas Seskauskis

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The traditional restored 56ft trading ketch Ilen of Limerick, under the command of Paddy Barry, is serenely continuing her progress homewards along Greenland’s southwest coast despite that rugged and sparsely-populated coastline suddenly becoming global news, thanks to the revelation that US President Trump views it as a strategic and highly-desirable mineral-rich piece of real estate writes W M Nixon.

While being the world’s largest island, Greenland has a population of only 58,000 who are reliant on Denmark to maintain their independent semi-autonomous position. With inter-cultural visits to many ports large and small - including the Greenland capital of Nuuk - while continuing to conduct the Salmons Wake research programme on the migratory routes of the Atlantic salmon which is so closely linked to Limerick’s own River Shannon, the crew of Ilen have come to have a keen appreciation of the Greenlanders’ perception of themselves as an independent people.

narsaq greenlandPure Greenland – Narsaq in southwest Greenland with its tidy church and colourful buildings is a classic small Greenland community set in a big landscape which, at this time of year, has very little evidence of snow.
Thus they well understood the dismissive reaction by Greenlanders and Denmark alike in rejecting President Trump’s exploration of a purchase offer this week, a rejection which has caused a diplomatic spat, and the cancellation of a planned State Visit by the US President to Denmark in two weeks’ time. But this is all in the realms of international geo-politic. Ilen and her crew meanwhile have to continue with the day-to-day requirements of positioning themselves near Greenland’s southern headland of Cape Farewell in preparation for their concluding 1200 mile voyage across open Atlantic, back to the Shannon Estuary and home to Limerick.

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The 1926-built restored 56ft Limerick trading ketch Ilen has completed the varied shoreside and coastal aspects of her research voyage to Greenland writes W M Nixon. This took her as far north as Ilulissat beyond the Arctic Circle to give first-hand experience of waters frequented by the Atlantic salmon and other wildlife, while also showing her crew the unmistakable effects of global warming.

Having returned south to the capital of Nuuk, homeward voyage skipper Paddy Barry and his shipmates have now been joined by noted west of Ireland traditional sailors Jarlath Cunnane and Dr Mick Brogan, the latter arriving onboard only a day or two after he had pulled down the shutter on the successful 40th Anniversary of Cruinniu na mBad at Kinvara, of which he is Organising Chairman.

mike in galley2The heart of the ship. Limerick salmon fisherman Mike Grimes of Ilen’s crew “is always busy”, and here he is at the eternally warm ship’s stove with a big fish feed on the way.
The primary objective now is to get Ilen safely down Greenland’s southwest coast to Cape Farewell, in order to be positioned for a return date in Limerick around September 10th. From Cape Farewell it is 1,200 sea miles across the open Atlantic to Loop Head at the entrance to the Shannon Estuary, and the Atlantic is currently in a restless mood.

But despite the primacy of the overall schedule, there was time for a bit of relaxation when the two new crewmembers from Ireland came on board, as those who have been with the ship since she sailed ocean-wards past Loop Head on July 1st were celebrating being 50 days on the project. There was also a suspicion that it might be Jarlath’s birthday. But being a Mayo man who doesn’t take much notice of such things – particularly when there are so many of them – he had to check it out on his Smartphone.

ilen 50 days3Party time when the new crewmembers arrive in Greenland. Ilen was celebrating 50 days on the voyage, and Jarlath Cunnane (left) thought it might just be his birthday too, but had to check it on his phone with (left to right) Mike Grimes, Justin McDonagh, and Cruinniu na mBad’s Dr Mick Brogan

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When Irish mountaineer Frank Nugent hiked to the top of a Greenland ice cap last week, he was shocked to observe the extent of the thaw writes Lorna Siggins.

Nugent, who has been to Greenland before, observed rapidly melting ice and snow on the summit of the Disko island ice cap, which is known as one of the top “ice” destinations in Greenland.

Greenland’s once mile-thick ice sheet began melting in the mid 19th century, but scientists reported late last year in the journal Nature that the rate has accelerated by 50 per cent since the start of the industrial era – and 30 per cent since the 20th century alone.

Nugent has been observing the impact at first hand as a member of the crew of the 17m (56 ft) Ilen, Ireland’s oldest sail trading ketch which set sail for Greenland earlier this summer.

The Ilen, now en route home to Ireland, is one of two Irish yachts which have been north of the Arctic Circle and visiting west Greenland coast communities over the past few weeks.

The 15m aluminium Killary Flyer, skippered by Irish adventurer Jamie Young, set sail from the Killary fjord on the Galway-Mayo border in early June as part of a two-year Dutch-Irish film project to document the impact of climate change.

“It is clear from talking to anyone here that the country is adapting to massive changes environmentally, socially and in their drive for independence,” film-maker/sailor Vincent Monahan of Duck Upon Rock productions, who is on board Killary Flyer, says.

While there is a serious concern, there is also “generally a positive outlook as people look for solutions”, he notes.

Since leaving Ireland on June 1st, the Killary Flyer has sailed well over 3,000 nautical miles, visiting towns, villages, outposts, and fjords up as far north as Disko Bay,” Monahan says.

Highlights included tracking humpback whales in the ice fjord at Illulisat on western Greenland, while the crew also witnessed calving glaciers at the end of the 20 nautical mile-long Evighedsfjord, Monahan says.

“The true highlight was simply the people of Greenland,” Monahan says, and their determination to maintain a strong connection with their natural environment.

Coincidentally, the crews of the Ilen and Killary Flyer met each other in mid-July in the Greenland capital of Nuuk.

The crew of the Killary Flyer were “queuing for a Danish pastry” when some lilting Irish accents began drifting across the canteen as the Ilen crew trickled in”, Monahan recalls.

The Killary Flyer crew were struck by how “immaculately restored” the Ilen, built by round-world sailor Conor O’Brien almost a century ago, looks.

“It was quite special having the two Irish boats together in Greenland side by side,” Monahan says.

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The traditional 56ft Limerick trading ketch Ilen will shortly begin her long return voyage from west Greenland to the Shannon Estuary, following the successful completion of the several strands of research and exploration in the Ilen Project’s Salmons Wake programme writes W M Nixon.

After departing from Ireland at Loop Head through some rough coastal conditions on July 1st, the main section of the Atlantic crossing was relatively smooth, but a local area of distinctly rugged weather made the outward passage round Greenland’s most southerly headland of Cape Farewell a real challenge.

It was successfully put astern through 30 hours of very tough going, and after calling at and interacting with several small communities along the southwest coast while continuing the Salmons Wake research, Ilen arrived safely in the Greenland capital of Nuuk in a favourable if cold and strong southerly wind.

ilen arctic circle2A moment for spiritual thought – aboard Ilen at the Arctic Circle with Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey, a Director of the Ilen Project since its inception, reflecting on all that has been achieved. Photo: Deirdre Power

However, since then the Arctic summer has arrived to facilitate the implementation of every aspect of the Project’s objectives which included getting north of the Arctic Circle, and with the arrival of August it is now time to put into action the planned second section of the two-way voyage, the return to Limerick.

Ilen routeIlulissat is the most northerly port reached by Ilen, and it will be the turning point for the Salmons Wake voyage

The most northerly port reached by Ilen and her current location is Ilulissat, and it is there that Project Manager Gary MacMahon – having been Ilen’s skipper for the outward passage and the work along the Greenland coast – has as planned now handed over command for the return voyage to renowned long distance and high latitudes sailor Paddy Barry, who is aboard Ilen for the entire sea-time of the Project.

gary in greenland4Gary Mac Mahon at the wheel of Ilen, absorbing the majesty of the Greenland coast. Photo: Deirdre Power

After some mountaineering in the region, Paddy will shortly be starting progress southward back to Nuuk where he and his shipmates will be joined for the main part of the return voyage by noted traditional sailors Dr Mick Brogan and Jarlarth Cunnane. It will be a busy month of August for Mick Brogan, as first he has to oversee the 40th Anniversary Cruinniu na mBad – the Gathering of the Traditional Boats - at Kinvara from 9th to 11th August.

Gary MacMahon himself has returned to Limerick in recent days to meet business requirements and also to put in hand the long work programe which will be involved in the processing of all the information that has been learned – and is still being learned – in the Salmons Wake project.

paddy barry5 Paddy Barry, one of Ireland’s top voyagers and an expert in traditional craft, will be skippering Ilen for the homeward Transatlantic passage. Photo: Deirdre Power

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In recent podcasts I’ve reported on the Cork Harbour T Boats, a Class now extinct apart from the restored original boat, which I highlighted last week here; the successful revival of the Rankins; the restoration underway of the gaff-cutter Lady Min and followed the marvellous restoration of the Ilen, the last Irish trading ketch, now in Greenland's waters.

That was carried out at Liam Hegarty’s boatyard in Oldcourt, Skibbereen, on the River Ilen. It’s not far from there to Baltimore, where that port, a major sailing location these days, was a major builder of fishing boats and Skinner’s yard well-known.

FREE STATE C1 AT HEGARTYS BOATYARD IN OLD COURTFree State C1 at Hegarty's Boatyard in Oldcourt Photo: Tom MacSweeney

Back at Liam Hegarty’s yard, I came across a boat which had been built at Skinner’s and whose connections are historic to the founding of the Irish Republic.

Built in the style of a sailing boat, it became the first-ever boat to be registered as a fishing boat in County Cork, with a name that is outstanding – FREE STATE C1. So named because administrators of the emergent Irish State in 1922 apparently would not register it in Irish! So the family made their point with the unique name.

This is a story that has to be heard in the telling and was told to me by Eoin Ryan, himself a seafarer, whose family owns the boat that was “a super business venture in her time,” as he put it and also the first fishing boat, with sailing boat lines, built with an engine in place.

Listen to the podcast below

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While the restored 1926-built 56ft traditional trading ketch Ilen of Limerick may have arrived in the Greenland capital of Nuuk last weekend in harsh weather – albeit with a favourable southerly wind – since then conditions have become much gentler, providing ideal opportunities for local coastal exploration and continuation of the research programme into the migratory patterns of the Atlantic salmon writes W M Nixon.

It is this programme which has given the venture the overall title of Salmons Wake, and the arrival of summery conditions in Greenland has facilitated regular deployment this week of Ilen’s distinctive square sail, emblazoned with the distinctive Salmons Wake logo. Skipper Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Project reports on a rewarding three days:

ilen greenland2 An iron coast….even in summery conditions, there’s no doubting the sheer ruggedness of the Greenland coast. Photo: Gary MacMahon

"After a magnificent three day trip to Umanap Surdlua and other adjacent fjords, the Limerick ship Ilen and her crew returned to Nuuk, West Greenland this evening (Wednesday). Umanap Surdlua is a vast Fjord area where we find Greenland's only salmon-spawning river, the Kapisillit, a river which is central to the Ilen Project’s Educational Programme - Salmon's Wake.

All on board are delighted with the achievement and results of visiting the Kapisillit River, and discovering at first hand the challenges it shares for the wild salmon with our very own river, the majestic Shannon. The research results and discoveries made will be presented in due course, on return to Limerick.

The Umanap Surdlua trip, in sheltered waters, also provided some excellent sailing and ship handling conditions. conditions which crew of Ilen crew did not waste, taking the opportunity to set every stitch of sail the ship carries”.

Today (Thursday 25th July) Ilen will be sailing north from Nuuk, and in time will cross the Arctic Circle.

ilen greenland3A well-earned spot of gentle cruising for Ilen’s crew. Despite a very rough rounding of Cape Farewell, Greenland’s most southerly headland, the restored 1926-built ship is looking very well indeed. Photo: Gary MacMahon
ilen greenland4 That famously long Ilen bowsprit, made in the Ilen Boatbuilding School in Limerick and installed on the vessel at Hegarty’s Boatyard in Oldcourt near Baltimore in West Cork, finds an appropriately dramatic background with the Greenland coast. Photo: Gary MacMahon

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After a swift but cold 26-hour run up the Labrador Sea along the southwest coast of Greenland from Paamuit, Limerick’s restored 1926-built 56ft ketch Ilen reached her primary destination, the Greenland capital of Nuuk, late this morning (Friday) writes W M Nixon. The crew were cold and tired but happy as they adjusted to the sensory assault of a busy modern port 19 days after leaving Limerick and taking their Irish departure on the afternoon of Monday July 1st from Loop Head, the northern sentinel of the Shannon Estuary.

With the first major stage of this year’s Salmon Wake voyaging now successfully completed, there will be time to further their studies and research into the migratory routes and methods of the threatened Atlantic salmon, whose returning numbers have fallen alarmingly in recent years on nearly all European rivers, including those in Ireland.

ilen tecla nuuk2 Ilen’s berth this morning in Nuuk was found alongside the hefty Dutch ketch Tecla

ilen tecla3 Big town……after 19 days at sea or calling at very small coastal settlements, Nuuk is definitely “big town"

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The restored 56ft 1926-built traditional ketch Ilen lingered in the southwest Greenland port of Paamuit for the past couple of days while a vicious southerly gale blew itself out in the Labrador Sea writes W M Nixon. It was an opportunity to make do and mend on board, while onshore the crew of ten continued in their exploration of Greenland and the lives of the people who live in its more remote small ports. The opportunity was taken to re-stock the ship's stores. Ten hungry sailors can get through a prodigious amount of food, though unfortunately, it was impossible to find a local supply of potatoes to match their very best Irish spuds put aboard in Limerick, which the ship’s company had finished in a celebratory feast once Greenland waters were reached.

ilen irish potatoes2The Last Supper (of Irish potatoes on Ilen). And very good they were too...

Project Leader Gary Mac Mahon posted his thoughts as Ilen prepared to depart for her main objective on this Salmons Wake Educational Voyage: "It's time to depart the town and harbour of Paamiut. Simply; a sailor's longing for new places grows exponentially to the length of time spent holed-up at port - regardless of its charms.

Nuuk is next, approximately 150nm downwind and north from Paamiut. Today's southeasterly breeze will be at our backs, so all augurs well for a respectable ship’s speed as Ilen pushes onward north.

Yesterday's low cloud and rain has given way to sporadic sunshine, but the Ilen crew remain wrapped up while moving about the deck or bare streets of Paamiut.

Ilen has seen her Gardner engine enjoy a full service this morning - Mantas and Mike were the men for that vital task. Meanwhile, preparations for the coming run to Nuuk continue - food make-ready, rigging work and the stowing of Ilen's tender and outboard. Also, the anchor will see more robust deck lines embrace it, as we anticipate a rolling run north up the Labrador Sea - with decks awash from time to time.

And so, away we go.”

We wish them the best of luck. And in Nuuk, they will find a different world. Most of Greenland’s population lives in this bustling port town of many amenities provided by generous Danish Government support. Apart from hotels and restaurants, it claims to have three night clubs and there are bars where’s the musicianship of Ilen’s crew will be much appreciated, while they in turn - if seeking a total change - may welcome the fact that Nuuk is particularly proud of its 9–hole golf course……

ilen to nuuk3The final leg to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland

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Page 2 of 11

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. 

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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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