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The National Yacht Club recently welcomed Liam Shanahan Jnr's new yacht, Ruth II, an impressive Oyster 625, into her home port of Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay.

The Irish Sailor of the Year 2015, an ISORA Champion, delivered the Rob Humphrey's design with a cutter rig from Ipswich on her maiden voyage a couple of weeks ago with winds varying form flat to 35–knots and she 'performed fine', according to her new skipper.

The plan for the first season is to sail Ruth II (Ruth I is the championship winning J109) from Cork to Galicia once the Leaving Certificate exams are finished, and some of the rest of the Shanahan family will join her there for a week or two.

The intention then is to sail down the Iberian peninsula, stopping in Cascais and then possibly around to near Barcelona, and on to the Balearics by September for a very relaxed regatta and some island exploration.

In October, the Shanahan family will sail her form Mallorca to the Canaries and start the preparations for the ARC, which leaves Las Palmas at the end of November – then across to St Lucia. 2019 will see a trip up the east coast of the US, across to Bermuda, and back across to this side of Atlantic the for the rest of 2019.

Thereafter, Liam Shanahan explains, the plan is to take Ruth II further afield...

Published in National YC
Tagged under

The Irish Sailing Association Annual Awards ceremony undoubtedly conveyed three clearcut messages. The first is that, in global sailing terms, we’re a wet and breezy little island which nevertheless punches way above our weight. The second is that we live comfortably with a long and very distinguished history of recreational sailing which puts most other nations in the shade. And the third is that Ireland is definitely not the greatest place in the world to be a professional sailor. W M Nixon takes a look back at Thursday’s annual prizefest.

Those unfamiliar with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland might think it odd that, in just two short years, its splendid College Hall, at the very epicentre of Dublin on Stephens Green, has come to be seen as the most natural focal point for the annual honouring of our top sailors and clubs.

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The College Hall in the RCSI provides an ideal setting for the annual gathering for Irish sailing’s national awards.

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Sailors talking about sailing. The Awards Ceremony provides a cherished opportunity for sailors from every discipline to shoot the breeze together.

Declan magee ciara dowling4RCSI President Declan Magee – a sailing man – with Events Organiser Ciara Dowling, who kept the show on the road

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Dragons Den star Bobby Kerr – a sailing man himself – was the lively Master of Ceremonies

But in terms of being a setting which lends itself very positively to such a gathering, College Hall is right on target. It’s a splendid room which is confident with itself without being over the top. It comfortably accommodates the crowd of between 180 and 200 who have come from all over Ireland to celebrate what’s best in our sailing. And as if that weren’t enough, the RCSI has remarkable links with sailing going back more than a hundred years.

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John Treacy, CEO of the Sports Council, with Liam Shanahan and ISA President David Lovegrove

So after last year’s first use of the venue, which stemmed from a typically far-sighted suggestion by ISA Board Member Brian Craig, people were keen to go back. And it wasn’t because no-one could think of anywhere better. On the contrary, it was because we’d found that the College of Surgeons is one of those wonderful buildings which make you feel better just from being in it. So in the early days of Spring when we wonder if summer is really going to come at all, a bit of a party in the College of Surgeons is just what the doctor ordered. And as for those doctors and surgeons from the RCSI going sailing, we’ll return to that at the end of this piece. But what of the event itself?

Well, with the Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year award going to a determinedly Corinthian skipper who cheerfully admitted that there’s any amount of professional sailors out there who could probably beat the pants off him, but nevertheless his core interest is offshore racing with family and friends, and if they win within those self-imposed limitations, then so much the better…..There it was, the real voice of Irish sailing, and no mistake.

is7The youngest award winner was Topper champion Geoff Power of Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East

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Pierce Purcell of Galway Bay SC with the RIYC’s Michael Boyd, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club

But what about the clubs through which we go sailing? How can they carry such a wealth of history, and yet be of any contemporary relevance? Here again, the evidence speaks for itself. The new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year has a wonderful history going back to 1831, yet in terms of sailing achievement and voluntary input into the local, regional and national organisation of sailing, it is making a fantastic contribution. And as for its relevance to sailing in the future, independently of the Club of the Year adjudication taking place, this same club was comfortably on its way to being the top ISA Training Establishment in its region, and on the shortlist for the national title too.

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Olympian and rising stars – James Espey, Aoife Hopkins and Saskia Tidey

If that’s not an illustration of the way that Irish sailing honours its past while living in the present and looking to the future, then I don’t know what it is. But what’s this third point about Ireland being a cold place for professional sailing? Here again, the assembly in the RCSI was very representative of our Irish sailing population. For sure, there are some very distinguished Irish professional sailors, and there are certainly Irish owners who are prepared to pay the top talents to sail with them. But there’s something about the Irish sailing scene which is inimical to such a setup at home. By all means do it where the weather’s usually benign, and there’s lots of money floating around. But in the Irish climate you sometimes have to be so keen to go sailing despite hostile weather that you just have to rely on nutty amateur crew - the professionals know there’s much better and more reliable pickings elsewhere.

Thus we’ve come to the ironic situation that our top home-based professional sailors are actually our Olympic hopefuls. It’s extraordinary when you think that the modern Olympics were “re-founded” in 1896 in order to celebrate amateur sport, yet now in Ireland just about the only home-based sailors who can be said to be professional are the Olympic aspirants. And if they haven’t accepted that they need a professional approach, then they’re not really at the races at all.

Thus although the friendly Olympian presence of Annalise Murphy, James Espey and Saskia Tidey was much to be welcomed in the very representative throng, generally anyone who was there with any sort of a professional interest in sailing had it as part of a larger business in which actually going sailing is only a small part of the total setup.

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Paralympic sailors Ian Costello and John Twomey

Admittedly we did have one Olympian who received an award, John Twomey who took the title in December for his qualification for the Paralympics in September 2016. And he came with added laurels, as on the very day of the ceremony, it had been announced that he and his crew of Ian Costello and Austin O’Carroll had moved up to fifth in the World Rankings. But if you suggested to John Twomey – headed for his 11th Olympiad – that he’s a professional sailor, he’d be convulsed in mirth. Real life is related to an accountancy practice in Kinsale.

So the only other monthly awardee who could remotely be said to be a professional sailor was August winner Ronan O Siochru. who skippered the winning Irish Offshore Sailing boat Desert Star to victory in the 33-strong Sailing Schools Division in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015. But he’s very definitely running a business - and a very demanding one at that – in which going sailing is only part of it.

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Ronan O Siochru with the President

Thus what Thursday’s ceremony was all about was voluntarism and amateur sport, and in case anybody missed the point, it was supposed to be a bit of fun. In this spirit, the greatest trophy in Irish sailing, the might salver for the Helmsman’s Championship, was given an outing. The All Ireland Helmsman’s Championship being an amateurs-only affair, as it is held over an October weekend, inevitably by the time its award ceremony for the salver is shaping up it’s well into Sunday evening. It’s getting dark, and everyone’s tired and wants to go home. So inevitably the handing-over of the historic trophy is a downbeat and somewhat rushed affair.

But as the ISA Annual Awards ceremony is all about handing over prizes with as much ceremony as possible, it was arranged for the salver – which had been hurriedly handed over to successful defender Anthony O’Leary in Dun Laoghaire back in October – to be smuggled out of the O’Leary household down in Crosshaven, secretly taken to Dublin, hidden away in the College of Surgeons, and then formally presented as a surprise extra to the great man after he’d received his Sailor of the Month award for April. He blushed.

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Got him! Sailor of the Year 2014 Anthony O’Leary unavoidably missed last year’s awards ceremony, and then in 2015, although though he was Sailor of the Month for April, there were very few people around in October when he successfully defended the Helmsmans Championship Salver. So it was taken secretly to this week’s ceremony, where more than 180 people cheered him to the rafters.

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ISA Youth Champions 2015 are Colin O’Sullivan and Doug Elmes, Bronze Medallists in the 420 Worlds.

Before all this, we’d been setting the scene with the ISA Youth Sailors of the Year, who were 420 Worlds Bronze Medallists Douglas Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan, and the ISA Training Centre of the Year, which was Mullingar Sailing Club from Westmeath which headed the Western Region, and overall came in ahead of Foynes YC from the Southern Region and the Royal Irish YC from the Eastern Region.

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Katie Johnston of Mullingar Sailing Club with David Lovegrove when MSC was announced as ISA Training Centre 2015.

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The new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year is the Royal Irish YC – Commodore James Horan with Billy Riordan of Mitsubishi Motors and David Lovegrove.

But for the RIYC Commodore James Horan, the good news was only beginning, as his club was then announced as the new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year for a host of excellent reasons. We’ll list them in more detail here on Afloat.ie in due course when the traditional handing-over ceremony for the old ship’s wheel trophy is held in the RIYC clubhouse later in the Spring. But meanwhile on Thursday we saw ample reason for it, as two of the Sailor of the Month awards went to very active RIYC members, George Sisk and Tim Goodbody.

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July Sailor of the Month George Sisk with the ISA President

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Dun Laoghaire Regatta Week 2015 Chairman, Fastnet Race 1987 overall winner, and multiple champion Tim Goodbody was Sailor of the Month in November

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Youngest cruising award winner was Fergus Ogden, who in June and July sailed round Ireland with his brother in an open Drascombe Lugger.

Then came the Sailor of the Year announcement. Anyone who was following the voting in the Afloat.ie poll will know it was running very close. But as the poll results are only a quarter of the adjudication process, it was just a couple of days ahead of the awards ceremony when the judges finally made their decision. They came down in favour of Liam Shanahan both for his wonderful and very sporting victory in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race with his family’s J/109 Ruth, and his subsequent success in retaining the Irish Sea Annual Championship title.

His modest acceptance speech was, in effect, a manifesto on behalf of all Irish amateur sailors, and particularly family sailors. The Shanahans are one remarkable sailing tribe right through three generations. And as for that win in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – well, it was beautiful sailing. Some sailing races are won by brutal slugging. Some are won by sheer cunning. Some inshore races are even won by dirty sailing, and it’s within the rules even if it does the image of our sport no good at all. But some race wins are simply beautiful sailing. And Ruth’s success in Dingle was definitely in that category.

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After receiving his award, Liam Shanahan briefly but eloquently outlines his philosophy of sailing

So the ceremony on Thursday concluded with this celebration of the best in Irish sailing, and it chimed well with the mood of the moment and the location, as the current President of the RCSI is Declan Magee who sails from Dun Laoghaire, and he was most welcome at the party and naturally thanked for the use of the hall……

Then as we exited the College Hall, the first doorway we passed was the Sir Thomas Myles Room. He was RCSI President 1900-1902, a wonderful surgeon and a man of prodigious energy who boxed to championship level, and adored sailing. A Home Ruler of Limerick origins. he made his auxiliary ketch Chotah available to take the guns off Conor O’Brien’s Kelpie during the Asgard gun-running of 1914, and landed them in Kilcoole in County Wicklow. And though he was immediately made a Colonel and head of British army surgical services in Ireland on the outbreak of the Great War of 1914-18, he also saw to it that hidden rooms in the major Dublin hospitals under his control were available to treat wounded rebels, indeed anyone who was wounded, during the Rising of 1916.

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Builders of the future – the team from Mullingar Sailing Club, ISA Training centre 2015

More recently, a leading sailing figure with links to sailing is Michael O’Rahilly who, when he became a student at RCSI at the end of the 2950s, found that the RCSI Sailing Club consisted of just one neglected Firefly dinghy. By the time he graduated in 1963, he was Club Captain, RCSISC had three Fireflies in top racing condition, and they were the Irish university champions.

Subsequently he went in to play a leading role in Dublin Bay SC, and was the Commodore for the DBSC Centenary in 1984. He follows in a notable RCSI tradition of sailing and working voluntarily for our sport, as an earlier top sailor in the college had been Jimmy Mooney who played a key role in the development of Irish dinghy sailing, and then went on to be our top Dragon sailor for many years, winning the Edinburgh Cup and representing Ireland in the Olympics.

Before Jimmy Mooney another noted character in the RCSI sailing scene was Rory O’Hanlon, who became a noted figure in offshore racing – he won a cup in the 1971 Fastnet Race – and was further renowned for his long distance cruising exploits.

He was noted as a kindly mentor to young cruising hopefuls, gently giving encouragement which could make all the difference to a nervous skipper. One such beginner, who later went on to great achievements, nervously went to Rory O’Hanlon to ask how best he should approach his first major voyage, north towards the Arctic in a little 26-footer.

“Sure, you just keep on sailing, and you’ll get there” said Rory. “Just keep on sailing, that’s all there is to it”. Just keep on sailing. It’s sensible advice. It resonated round College Hall in the RCSI on Thursday afternoon. We should all heed it.

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“Just keep on sailing, and you’ll get there”. The late Rory O’Hanlon at the helm of his S & S 43 Clarion with which he won the Philip Whitehead Cup in the 1971 Fastnet Race, and also cruised on long voyages. While a student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, he was active in the sailing club.

See also: Sailing Awards slideshow

Published in W M Nixon

#SailorOfTheYear – Liam Shanahan has been named Afloat.ie Irish Sailor of the Year for 2015.

The Irish Sea yachtsman and June's Sailor of the Month was presented his award by Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy at the Irish Sailing Awards gala in Dublin's Royal College of Surgeons this afternoon (Thursday 4 February).

Shanahan was recognised for his comprehensive victory in the 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race at the helm of Ruth, his family's J/109, marking the highlight of a busy June in Irish sailing.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Shanahan – and his dependable crew, especially so since they're family – would go on to retain the James Eadie Trophy in the ISORA Offshore Championship, fending off the strong challenge of Andrew Hall's J/125 Jackknife and Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox's J/109 Mojito in the season's final race from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire in September.

And what's more, Shanahan was the clear choice of both the judging panel and Afloat.ie readers alike from the field of 17 individual and joint nominees, garnering 1,359 votes out of nearly 6,500 cast.

In accepting his prize, Shanahan said it was "an award for Corinthian and family sailing", which he regards as the heart and future of the Irish sailing scene.

Hosted by entrepreneur Bobby Kerr along with Afloat.ie's WM Nixon and Irish Sailing Association (ISA) president David Lovegrove, the Irish Sailing Awards also recognised the ISA Youth Sailor of the Year and Training Centre of the Year, as well as the Mitsubishi Motors Club of the Year.

Guests at the event included members of the ISA's Olympic and youth sailing squads, national senior and youth champions, class captains and club commodores, and a number of past Sailor of the Year awardees, such as 2012's winner George Kenefick.

Published in Sailor of the Year

The last race of the ISORA Avery Crest Offshore series that was sponsored by LC Tyres, took place on Saturday 12th September with the race from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire (74 miles) writes ISORA's Peter Ryan. The boats compete for the famous “James Eadie” trophy. As like the same race last season, the weather forecast for the race and particularly the delivery to Pwllheli was not favourable all week. This put off many of taking part in what is normally a well supported end of season race.
The race was of more interest than usual due to the fact that the Overall Championship was still be be raced for with Liam Shanahan’s J109, “Ruth” and Andrew Hall’s J125, “Jackknife” only a 5 point apart and Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox’s J109 “Mojito” close behind. While either “Ruth” or “Jackknife” could have taken the Series with a good result in the race, “Mojito” needed a well attended race to secure sufficient points in the high points scoring used by ISORA.
Of the 26 entries received for the race, 19 had confirmed taking part on the Monday prior to the race but only 9 came to the start on Saturday morning. Several boats had left Dun Laoghaire the previous morning but turned back when they were met with strong south easterly winds on the nose and a big sloppy sea. Those that persevered were rewarded with nearly “champagne” sailing for the race. Bryan Mullarkey’s Collins 40, “Harriet Marwood” was taking part in an ISORA race for the first time. Richard Mossop’s Oceanis 411, “Yachtzee” and David Simpson’s Swan 371 “Albeiro” were battling for the Overall Class 2.

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Liam Shanahan's Ruth from the National Yacht Club has successfully defended her 2015 ISORA offshore crown

Due to the uncertain forecast due to the presence of two depressions, north and south of the race area, the decision was taken to set the course from the start direct in Pwllheli to the finish between the pier heads in Dun Laoghaire.
Despite the poor forecast, the lashing winds during the night and the strong winds, conditions were relative pleasant for the start. The wind was 10-12 knots from the south west giving a beat to the first corner at St Tudwal’s Sound. Stephen Tudor’s J109, “Sgrech” was first off the line and lead the fleet until the faster “Jackknife” too to the front. From the start “Ruth” and Mojito” were always in close contact leaving.
As the fleet approached St Tudwal’s Sound the wind had increased to 20knots and the expected overfalls at the end of the sound awaited the fleet. The next leg was the beat to Bardsay Sound. The wind appeared to veer westerly and maintained the 20-22 knots leaving the fleet to beat through the rough seas towards Bardsey Sound. Fortunately, the tide was right for a fast shoot through Bardsey Sound. Unfortunately, the overfalls in the sound were significant but had settled soon after exiting it.

LC Tyrehunter logo
By that stage the battle was on. “Jackknife” cracked sails and took the direct line to Dun Laoghaire in the last of the north going tide. The remainder of the fleet retained their height and the three J109’s with Conor Fogarty’s 2-handed Jenneau 3600, “Bam”, bunched together for the leg to Dun Laoghaire. Shortly after leaving Bardsey the wind backed allowing the boats to ease sails and speed up. Of the bunch of four, “Bam” lead the group with “Ruth” and “Mojito” close behind and “Sgrech” snapping at their heels. Paul Sutton’s “Pipedreamer VI” was just behind this pack.
As the fleet approached the Irish coast the winds abated to 12 knots and backed further to the south allowing those with Code Zeros to accelerate. The positions within the fleet did not change for the long leg despite continuous trimming and hard driving being done on all the boats. It was not until approaching Dublin Bay that “things started to happen”. The winds became fickle and dropped further in Killiney bay. While “Jackknife” avoided much of the light wind to keep powering towards the line, the three J109’s and “Bam” got into a tactical battle with rapid sail changes taking place to deal with the oscillating winds. As the fleet approached Dublin Bay the wind veered to the west and decreased again giving the boats a short final beat to the finish line. Despite the work on each boat the positions generally remained the same.
“Jackknife” took line honours but could only manage 5th Overall allowing “Ruth”, who won the Overall race and Class1 to regain the ISORA Avery Crest Offshore Championship title. Class 2 was won by “Yahtzee” who also won Silver Class.
The crew of Liam Shanahan’s “Ruth” include his four sons. There is a great tradition of offshore racing in the Shanahan family with Liam Shanahan Snr playing a huge part in ISORA racing in the early days.
The race sponsor, LC Tyres, provided day prizes for the race. These were presented at the après sail party that took place in the NYC. The prizes were presented by Caroline Coyne aided by her son, Billy and daughter, Isobel.
The ISORA Avery Crest Offshore Championship trophy, the Wolf’s Head, will be presented to Liam Shanahan at the ISORA dinner in the NYC on the 14th November. “Jackknife” took 2nd place Overall and “Mojito” took 3rd place.
Overall Series Calls 1 was won by “Jackknife” and Class 2 was won by “Albeiro” who also took Overall Silver Class. The team prize, known as the “Victoria Cup”, was again won by Pwllheli Sailing Club.
All the results can be found on the ISORA website. The YB tracking of the race can also be accessed on the ISORA website and on the YB app for smart phones.

Published in ISORA

#sailorofthemonth – The comprehensive overall victory in the 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race by Liam Shanahan in his family's J/109 Ruth was the highlight of a busy month of Irish sailing in June, with Ruth emerging as winner in the last fifty miles of racing after a head-to-head all round the course on three coasts of Ireland with sister-ship Mojito.

When Ruth finally crossed the finish line at the entrance to Dingle Harbour at 1945hrs on the summery evening of Sunday June 14th, she and her crew had been racing at a high level of sustained intensity for forty-seven and three-quarter hours. Their reward was in knowing that they'd beaten all four larger boats already in port on corrected time, while their closest rival Mojito was a clear two miles astern, and any lower-rated boats still at sea would have to struggle against an easing and veering wind which would later provide a slow beat to the finish from Skellig Michael.

In a text-book staging of this great biennial offshore classic, the likelihood was that a J/109 would certainly be on the podium, as there were six of them racing in the 30-strong fleet. But in the final results, it's significant that their placings were spread out between 1st overall and 19th overall. It was the duel between Ruth and Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli SC) which set them apart in every sense, and the heightened performance it provided makes Liam Shanahan a very worthy Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for June 2015.

Published in Sailor of the Month
Tagged under

#d2drace – It's the Irish offshore race which ticks all the boxes.You start conveniently on a Friday night from a harbour which – despite everything that has been done to it in the name of modern architecture – continues to present the classically smooth granite façade of official Dublin-on-Sea. The race is on southward through the night down the east coast, past murky sandbanks which contrast with the luxuriance of the Garden of Ireland beyond the nearby shore. After that, it's round the tricky rock-strewn southeast corner and into the Atlantic, seeking a course between southwest and west along a green and purple coastline with fine mountains beyond, until your next major turn is the Fastnet Rock itself.

Then it's on round Ireland's most spectacularly beautiful southwestern coastline, past one great headland after another, each more impressive than the last. The final turning mark is reached, a rock so spectacular it's first choice for location shooting on sci-fi blockbusters. Thus is the mighty and mystical Skellig Michael put astern. And then, with the majestic scenery of the great mountains of Kerry setting the style, you head up a splendid inlet and sail through a small and almost hidden gap in its rugged northern coastline.

You've suddenly entered a secret yet commodious natural harbour, and may find yourself being welcomed by the amiable yet often spectacular resident dolphin. But far from finding you've arrived at a sparse little village which is appropriately dwarfed by the big country about it, on the contrary there's a proper little port town with an air of confidence and cosmopolitan chic, and the aromas of good cooking in the breeze off the land. But the contrast with the smooth metropolitan harbour town you left a couple of days earlier simply couldn't be greater. For you have just finished the 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race, and all is very well with the world at one of Ireland's best destination ports. W M Nixon tells the story of the 2015 edition of this biennial classic.

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We took leave of the fleet of thirty boats a week ago on this blog as they exited unspectacularly from Dublin Bay in the gathering dusk, helped by the new ebb, and searching for the brisk northerly which had been forecast. And to varying extents they did find it, though it was only those who went close along the land who found it in anything like the forecast strengths - those offshore could have done with more. But before we go into their travails and triumphs, let us again list the dramatis personae, ranked by IRC Rating:

Dingle Skellig Hotel Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2015, start 2100hrs Friday June 12th. Entries listed by rating.

1 Lee Overlay Partners, (Cookson 50, Adrian Lee, Royal St George YC) - 1.340
2 Antix, (Ker 40, Anthony O'Leary, Royal Cork YC & Baltimore SC) - 1.210
3 WOW, (Farr 42, George Sisk, Royal Irish YC) - 1.124
4 Pogeen (Pogo 1050, John Gilmore, Strangford Lough YC) -1.096 (Cruiser)
5 Aquelina (J/122, James & Sheila Tyrrell, Arklow SC) – 1.078
6 Aurelia (J/122, Chris & Patanne Power Smith, RStGYC) – 1.077
7 Endgame (A 35, Frank Doyle, RCYC) – 1.027
8 Dear Prudence (J/109, Jonathan Bourke, ManhattanYC) – 1.021
9 Mojito (J109,Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli SC) – 1.018
10 Ruth (J/109, Shanahan family, National YC) – 1.017
11 Wakey Wakey (J/109, Roger Smith, Poolbeg Y & BC), - 1.015
12 Powder Monkey (J/109, Chris Moore, NYC) – 1.014
13 Jedi (J/109, J Treanor, A Sarratt, M McGuinness, RIYC, NYC, RStGYC) – 1.009
14 Exhale (X-Yachts 362 Sport, Derry & Hilda Good, RCYC) – 1.009
15 First of September (First 435, Jerry Whiston, PY&BC) – 1.003
16 Lula Belle (First 36.7, Liam Coyne, NYC) – 1.002
17 Alchimiste (JPK 9.60, Mike Murphy, National YC) – 0.998
18 Blue Eyes (Elan 340, Colm Buckley & Simon Knowles, Howth YC) – 0.987 (2-handed)
19 Joker (Sigma 38, David Gibbons, Kinsale YC) – 0.982 (2-handed)
20 Windshift (Jeanneau Sunfast 37, Brendan Coghlan, RStGYC) – 0.980
21 Persistance (Sigma 38, Jerry Collins, RStGYC) 0.978 (Cruiser)
22 Yahtzee (Beneteau Oceanis 411) Richard Mossop, Dun Laoghaire MYC – 0.978 (Cruiser)
23 Red Rhum (Dehler db1, Jonathan Nicholson, RStGYC) – 0.968
24 Desert Star (Jeanneau Sunfast 37, Ronan O Siochru, RStGYC) – 0.966
25 Ipanema (Dehler 37 CR, Martin Breen Galway Bay SC) – 0.959 (Cruiser)
26 Legally Blonde (Beneteau First 31.7, Cathal Drohan, RStGYC) 0.951
27 Amazing Grace (Oyster 37, Brian O'Sullivan & Frances Clifford, Tralee Bay SC) – 0.928
28 Big Deal (Dehler 34, Derek & Conor Dillon, Foynes YC) - 0.922 (2-handed)
29 Lady Rowena (Sadler 34, David Bolger, RStGYC) 0.911 (Cruiser)
30 Polished Manx (Sigma 33, Kuba Szymanski, Douglas Bay YC) – 0.899

As they sailed into the night, some were doing better than others almost regardless of the wind they found. And the D2D Race Tracker began its work on Afloat.ie to such good effect that within a couple of days its visitor hits had knocked "James Bond in Dun Laoghaire" off the top of the popularity sidebar on our website.

d2dmap.jpgA great offshore race becomes a computer game. Thanks to the ISORA Averycrest Yellowbrick support, we could follow every twist and turn, then relish it all as seen here after the finish, when we could look back at leisure to see those who took flyers. That's Jedi and WOW from Dun Laoghaire who went way to the eastward going south through St George's Channel, with Jedi going deepest. Then Ipanema from Galway went looking for palm trees in the Celtic Sea and didn't do well, though the other markedly though not so extreme southward plunger, the J/122 Aurelia, placed third overall. Then in the open Atlantic off the coast of Kerry, Joker from Kinsale clearly reckoned she just couldn't go too far west...

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The masthead-spinnaker-toting veteran Dehler DB1 Red Rhum (Jonathan Nicholson, RStGYC) was very much a contender in the early stages, and briefly took the overall lead again off West Cork, but at the finish she was 11th. Photo: W M Nixon

From the screen, it became increasingly clear as the first night went along that the racing superstar Antix was starting to look good. Anthony O'Leary of Cork's current British IRC Champion, the Munster-red Ker 40 formerly known as Catapult, had shaken herself clear of most of the rest of the bigger boat group, though a select band of craft of all sizes which has chosen a corner-cutting course out of Dublin Bay close by the Muglins were going well, with the Tyrell's J/122 Aquelina from Arklow setting the pace ahead of the masthead-spinnaker-toting veteran Dehler db1 Red Rhum (Jonathan Nicholson) and the pace-setters in both the Two-Handed and Cruiser Divisions, Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles with the Elan 340 Blue Eyes, and Brian O'Sullivan with the defending champion, the vintage Oyster 37 Amazing Grace.

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In the early stages of the race, the Elan 340 Blue Eyes (left), raced two-handed by Colm Buckley & Simon Knowles (Howth YC) was showing very well against the entire fleet. She lost her good placing for a while in the calms off the southwest coast, but at the finish won the Two-Handed Division and placed twelfth overall, thereby putting sixteen fully-crewed boat astern. With her shortly after the start is the Sigma 38 Joker (David Gibbons, Kinsale YC) which placed second in the Two-Handed Division. Photo: W M Nixon

Their moment of glory was rather more than that. Close along the land, the little fellows were still finding the better breeze an hour later. But offshore the biggies were finding their style, and soon Antix was sitting on nearly 8 knots while Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners was powering through at 9, and though Aquelina was hanging in mighty well, the proper order was asserting itself by the time Wicklow Head was astern of the leaders at midnight, though Red Rhum, Blue Eyes and Chris Moore's J/109 Powder Monkey were still embarrassingly close. Further back in the fleet, David Bolger's comfortable Sadler 34 lady Rowena was going much too well for the peace of mind of the bigger newer boats around her.

However, through the remainder of the short June night, the two leaders were powering away, and by 0530 Antix and Lee OP had broken past the Tuskar Rock while the fleet astern found the new flood tide piling up against them to enable Antix to start to assert her position at the top of the leaderboard on IRC. This was what had been expected with the weather forecasts on Thursday morning, when predictions had been that a favourable wind pattern - briskly from the north - might enable Antix to get to Dingle within the 24 hours, with the stratospherically-rated Lee Overlay Partners doing even better.

But by Friday morning the wind expectations and the betting had softened. It seemed there were going to be at least two significant flat patches which would have to be negotiated before they could breathe the Kerry air. In those circumstances, the smart money shifted to boats with middle ratings in the fleet, and where better to settle than on the half dozen ever-reliable J/109s? And within those ever-reliable J/109s, where safer than the Shanahan family with Ruth, the 2014 ISORA Champion?

It has to be admitted that with Powder Monkey leading the charge for glory in the J/109s in the early stages, Ruth had her backers worried. But by the time they were out past the Coningbeg at 11 o'clock on Saturday morning, the money was looking a little bit safer, for although Antix was still reaching along in glorious style and fine weather with the Old Head of Kinsale the next mark in mind and her still on top of the handicap lead, Ruth was now emerging from the pack and was picking at the lead in the J/109s which had been taken over by the Welsh boat Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), while early sprinter Powder Monkey had run out of steam and was now well back.

While the northerly breeze lasted, Lee Overlay Partners and Antix were in a race of their own. Horizon job doesn't even begin to describe it. And when the wind did go soft and then drew locally from ahead on Saturday afternoon during an otherwise perfect summer's day, they were better able to cope in clear conditions. But many miles astern, the most of the rest of the fleet were in those messy waters south of the Hook, where head winds in the usual lumpy sea make any progress difficult, and some took desperate tactical gambles.

Yet such is the nature of this race that the more optimistic continued to hope that their time might yet come, and so it proved through Saturday night. The underlying northerly breeze had returned as forecast, reinforced by being the night breeze off the land right along the south coast of West Cork. But for the two leaders ploughing along approaching the Fastnet Rock at midnight, they were sailing into another calm. The Fastnet Rock, legendary emblem of rough water, was no more than a great big pussy cat sitting serenely in its own bed of almost windless sea. Lee OP and Antix, within a couple of miles of each other, came as near as dammit to a halt.

Yet the rest of the fleet, led by the offshore-course-favouring J/122 Aurelia (Chris & Patanne Power Smith), were coming down from the Old Head of Kinsale through the velvet night in considerable style and at a very fine speed. Then through that night, as each cohort in turn came to the Fastnet and found it calm and then had some very slow progress towards the next bit of a reasonably moving air out by Mizen Head, the corrected time leadership changed almost by the minute, and certainly by the hour.

In such circumstances, with all the benefit of hindsight, we can see a trend emerging. The close racing between Mojito and Ruth had developed into an exhausting duel. But their heightened performance for that one-on-one challenge meant they in turn were out-performing all others. Oh for sure, from time to time other boats appeared at the top of the leaderboard. But thanks to the Mojito/Ruth contest - "a dogfight" was how Liam Shanahan later laconically described it - when anything remotely like reasonable sailing emerged, the two top J/109s were poised to take the lead.

It was at Cape Clear and heading on towards the Fastnet at 6 o'clock on Sunday morning that Ruth for the first time started to show ahead, though only just, when they were only 80 metres apart. But she stayed ahead of Mojito thereafter, even though like everyone else they spent a considerable time – three hours in the case of some boats – becalmed at the mouth of Bantry Bay. Yet all the time Ruth was somehow nibbling away, and as the northerly returned to give a summer day's beat out past Dursey Head and on towards the big turn at the Skellig, Ruth was building towards having two miles in hand on Mojito.

She never lost it thereafter, and as the chips were falling exactly the right way for whoever was leading the J/109s, they were able to get round the Skellig and up to the finish at Dingle carrying the port tack all the way, albeit hard on the wind, while those ahead had found things flukey towards Dingle, and those far astern were to find the wind veering to give a beat, and then falling away.

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Moment of truth aboard Ruth. With Liam Shanahan on the wheel and crewman Kevin Daly on the mainsheet, they have just rounded the Skellig and can lay the course for the finish. If the expected veering in the wind can hold off for just a little while, they have the race in the bag........

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The early overall leader Antix was no longer in a commanding position when she finally finished the D2D 2015 shortly after 2pm on Sunday, having to contend with a local south to east breeze to get across the line. But in the end, she did very well to correct to 8th place overall after a race in which conditions were against her. Photo: Alan Dooley

Lee Overlay Partners and Antix had stayed well ahead, but being stopped – as the whole fleet had been from time to time – is murder for the highest rated boats, and though they were both into Dingle in time for a late Sunday lunch, it would have needed the rest of the fleet to be set in concrete for half a day to give them a chance of the handicap win.

Yet not so far behind the two big glamour girls, the Steady Eddy performer Aurelia came in neck and neck with George Sisk's much higher rated Farr 42 WOW, and Aurelia was undoubtedly in with more than shout if things went even slightly pear-shaped for the tightly packed bunch astern. But it was not to be. Far from resembling a pear, the shape was perfect for Ruth, and she took the win with style, finishing at 1945 hrs still that crucial two miles ahead of Mojito, which in turn came in twenty minutes later to move into second on corrected time, with things now looking good for Aurelia in third.

It was fairly clearcut in terms of time for the first three places, but fourth slot was a very close run thing. If there was a prize for the most inappropriately-named boat in the race, it would have been no contest for Jay Bourke's J/109 Dear Prudence. She seemed to be crewed mostly by some of the most colourful characters on the Irish sailing scene. And in those difficult stages to the west of the Coningbeg and Saltees, Dear Prudence seemed to be taking unsuccessful flyers which belied her name. But as the race progressed, her motley crew – sorry about the cliché, but nothing else will do – began to get their act together, and they fairly milled their way through the fleet.

By the time Dear Prudence got out of the Bantry Bay calm, she was becoming a contender. Thereafter, the motley crew sailed like men possessed. To get to Dingle as quickly as possible, they made some inspired tactical decisions in the beat up to the Skellig. And then, on the final leg to the finish, they didn't sail an inch further than was absolutely necessary, skirting Valentia Island close inshore with a splendidly cavalier disregard for the supposed perils of doing so, and hounding down Frank Doyle's A35 Endgame and Mike Murphy's perky little twin-ruddered JPK 9.60 Alchimiste like a very hungry lion after his prey.

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Possibly the most inappropriately-named boat on the planet, the J/109 Dear Prudence (seen here in another race) managed to snatch fourth place by 50 seconds thanks to shaving past the coast of Valentia Island on the way to the finish. Photo: W M Nixon

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"And they told me Dingle was a rugged place with ferocious Atlantic weather....." Post-finish celebrations in Dingle say it all.

Thus from being an also ran going nowhere, Dear Prudence came in a commendable fourth, albeit by just 50 seconds ahead of Alchimiste. It was an astounding performance. And it added yet further lustre to the J/Boat sweep of the results, as they now took five of the first six places. In a wonderful race like this, every boat has a dozen stories to tell. In the end though, it is only the story of the winner that really matters. But before we focus on Ruth and her team, here are the complete results, and let it be noted that being a J/109 was no guarantee of success – in the final tally, they were spread between first and nineteenth overall. And in that final tally, an encouraging aspect has to be the widespread nature of the clubs taking part in this great race:

Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2015 (National YC & Dingle Sailing Club) Results

IRC Overall: 1st Ruth (J/109, B, W, A, T & P Shanahan, National YC) Corrected Time: 1 day 23hrs 30 minutes & 48 seconds; 2nd Mojito (J/109) Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli SC) 1:23:51:50; 3rd Aurelia (J/122, Chris & Patanne Power Smith, Royal St George YC) 2:0:15:52; 4th Dear Prudence (J/109, Jonathan Bourke, Manhattan YC) 2:1:18:14; 5th Alchimiste (JPK 9.60, Mike Murphy, National YC) 2:1:19:04; 6th Aquelina (J/122. James & Sheila Tyrrell, Arklow SC) 2:1:31:10; 7th Endgame (A35, Frank Doyle, Royal Cork YC) 2:1:47:04; 8th Antix (Ker 40, Anthony O'Leary, RCYC & Baltimore SC) 2:2:02:27; 9th WOW (Farr 42, George Sisk, Royal Irish YC) 2:2:20:52; 10th: Wakey Wakey (J/109, Roger Smith, Poolbeg Y & BC) 2:3:40:56; 11th Red Rhum (Dehler db1, Jonathan Nicholson, RStGYC) 2:3:40:56; 12th Blue Eyes (Elan 340, Colm Buckley & Simon Knowles, Howth YC) 2:4:27:10; 13th Amazing Grace (Oyster 37, Brian O'Sullivan & Frances Clifford, Tralee Bay SC) 2:4:31:23; 14th First of September (First 435, Jerry Whiston, Poolbeg Y & BC) 2:6:16:00); 15th Lula Belle (First 36.7, Liam Coyne, NYC) 2:6:49:37; 16th Lee Overlay Partners (Cookson 50, Adrian Lee, RStGYC) 2:6:52:23; 17th Desert Star (Jeanneau Sunfast 37, Ronan O Siochru, RStGYC) 2:6:55:50; 18th Jedi (J/109, Johnny Treanor, Andrew Sarratt & Mary McGuinness, NYC, RStGYC, RIYC) 2:7:02:07; 19th Powder Monkey (J/109, Chris Moore, NYC) 2:7:08:03, 20th Windshift (Jeanneau Sunfast 37, Brendan Coghlan, RStGYC) 2:7:12:41, 21st Joker (Sigma 38, David Gibbons, Kinsale YC) 2:7:24:19; 22nd Big Deal (Dehler 34, Derek & Conor Dillon, Foynes YC) 2:7:28;21; 23rd Yahtzee (Beneteau Oeanis 411, Richard Mossop, Dun Laoghaire Motor YC) 2:7:58:48; 24th Exhale (X-Yachts 362 Sport, Derry & Hilda Good, RCYC) 2:8:36:27; 25th Lady Rowena (Sadler 34, David Bolger, RStGYC) 2:8:41:10; 26th Legally Blonde (First 31.7, Cathal Drohan, RStGYC) 2:9:04:48; 27th Polished Manx (Sigma 33, Kuba Szymanski, Douglas Bay YC) 2:9:32:37, 28th Pogeen (Pogo 1050, John Gilmore, Strangford Lough YC) 2:10:04:38; 29th Persistance (Sigma 38, Jerry Collins, RStGYC) 2:10:21:55. Ipanema (Dehler 37CR, Martin Breen, Galway Bay SC) DNF.

Two-handed Division: 1st Blue Eyes (Elan 340, Colm Buckley & Simon Knowles, Howth YC) 2:4:27:10; 2nd Joker (Sigma 38, David Gibbons, Kinsale YC) 2:7:24:19; 3rd Big Deal (Dehler 34, Derek & Conor Dillon, Foynes YC) 2:7:28:21;

Cruising: 1st Amazing Grace (Oyster 37, Brian O'Sullivan & Frances Clifford, Tralee Bay SC) 2:8:46:54; 2nd Yahtzee (Beneteau Oceanis 411, Richard Mossop, Dun Laoghaire Motor YC) 2:7:58:48; 3rd Lady Rowena (Sadler 34, David Bolger RStGYC) 2:8:41:10.

RUTH'S WINNING FAMILY STORY

The offshore racing story of the Shanahan family of the National Yacht Club goes back at least three generations, and while Liam Shanahan Jnr and two of his sons were racing the family's J/109 Ruth (which is named for his wife, the mother of their five children), father and grandfather Liam Senior, a renowned offshore racing skipper and international businessman in his day, was not only following their progress in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race on the Averycrest Yacht Tracker "every fifteen minutes", but recently he has – at the age of 84 – bought himself a brand new Beneteau Oceanis 38.

When you're from stock like that, offshore racing runs in the blood. Yet it was only within the past five years that Liam bought the new J/109 Ruth. He'd kept in touch with sailing, but a hectic working life – often overseas - meant his sailing was limited to occasional brief forays with a 1720 and an SB20.

But then he literally decided to spend more time with his family, and as much of it as possible sailing. In looking analytically with his oldest sons Ben and William at the sailing scene in Dun Laoghaire, they reckoned that the J/109 provided the best all round value, as there'd be One Design racing in Dublin Bay, there'd also be the scope to renew the Shanahan involvement with ISORA racing which their friend Peter Ryan in the National YC was promoting with vigour, and while the boat was clearly a genuine contender in the offshore racing scene, she provided the third option of real cruising potential.

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A clean, simple yet sophisticated boat – the J/109 exactly fitted the Shanahan family's requirements

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The saloon area on the J/109 is a successful compromise between comfort and seagoing efficiency

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The J/109's straightforward galley is actually more workmanlike than is on many supposedly out-and-out cruisers

They decided to go for the total racing version, with the biggest steering wheel possible, and while Liam admits it takes a little bit of gymnastics for the helmsman to take up his position astern of it, the result is an easily controlled boat with very responsive steering – "you feel close to the feel of the water when you're on the wheel, it's finger-tip cntrol".

His approach to the offshore racing game was that it should first help to bind his family together in a shared enterprise which they all enjoyed, but as well the demands of crewing a J/109 meant they happily had to reinforce old friendships and create new ones in order to provide the necessary amateur crew panel to enable an active season which can go on for twelve months – this past winter is the first one in which Ruth has been ashore for eight weeks, the previous three winters she was raced all year round.

You get some idea of the scale of family ties and sailing friendships involved when you learn that at last year's ISORA Prize-Giving Dinner when Ruth was hailed as overall champion, the Shanahan group included no less than 28 people who had all raced on the boat since the stellar career of racing the J/109 began, all of whom regularly renewed their involvement as crew panel allocations and personal time availability required. For the race to Dingle, the crew lineup was typical, as it included Liam, Ben and William Shanahan, backed up by Kevin Daly, Simon Digby, Conall O'Halloran and Fiachra Etchingham.

It's a huge challenge maintaining such a network, yet it's one which Liam Shanahan clearly relishes, as he has a generous and continually developing philosophy of family, friends and community as expressed through sailing. And in ISORA especially, with like-minded people such as Peter Ryan on the Irish side and Stephen Tudor on the Welsh side, he has found a remarkably congenial atmosphere in which to express his approach to life, and his enthusiasm in bringing his family with him.

But in fact, when you see the Shanahan family in full flight, whether sailing together or socialising at something like last November's Round Ireland Awards Dinner in Wicklow, you could begin to wonder just who is encouraging whom, as the younger generation interact with the seniors in a mutually beneficial display of enjoyment of their own and their non-family shipmates' company, with private jokes, shared enthusiasm, and an almost telepathic in-family sense of communication and shared values.

In other words, they move as quickly and effectively ashore as they do afloat. It's impressive. And while there is this well thought out thinking behind it, it's not something that's shouted too much from the rooftops, but rather it is expressed through the shared purpose of doing well in racing, and doing it in an amateur capacity.

But in line with it, a few months ago Liam took the very definite step of formally transferring the ownership of Ruth to the five children – Ben (22), William (20), Alice (19), Tom (16) and Peter (14). For as he says himself, everything happens so quickly in a busy family, and soon they'll be moving out and going their various ways on all their different projects. But if they continue to have this shared responsibility for running a boat in all its complex aspects of logistics and personnel and decision-making, they'll have something which regularly gets them all round a table together discussing topics which are at least at one remove from the other sometimes tedious demands of modern life.

So in looking at Ruth's success in the D2D 2015, we find ourselves contemplating a very interesting exercise and experiment in family dynamic. Just so. For those who are interested simply in what boats are doing, the word is that Ruth was due back in Dun Laghaire before this weekend, as the universal family challenge of exams is top of the agenda for the current few days or so. Then she resumes racing next weekend with the hundred mile Royal Dee/ISORA Lyver Trophy Race between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire which, as part of the Royal Dee YC's Bicentenary celebrations, will bring the ISORA fleet to Dun Laoghaire for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015. In that, a healthy turnout of J/109s racing as a One Design class will be keen to show Ruth and her five family owners that she won't necessarily have it all her own way.

Published in W M Nixon

#d2drace – The results in the National YC's 280–mile 30–boat Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race have now been officially ratified, and they confirm the Shanahan family's J/109 Ruth (National YC) as overall winner. The race has been a remarkable success for J/Boats, as top performing craft from the design board of American Rod Johnstone have taken five of the first six places.

In the Two-Handed Division, at Dingle Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles (Howth YC) had regained their initial lead – which they'd lost while battling light headwinds off the Kerry coast - and they finished well to place 12th overall with the Elan 340 Blue Eyes, thereby putting 16 fully-crewed boats astern. Just one place behind Blue Eyes in 13th overall was the defending champion from Tralee Bay SC, Brian O'Sullivan and Frances Clifford's Oyster 37 Amazing Grace, which won the Cruiser Division.

This weekend's Sailing on Saturday blog on Afloat.ie by W M Nixon will feature a profile of the Shanahan family and Ruth, together with a more detailed analysis of the race and the results.

Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2015 (National YC & Dingle Sailing Club)

IRC Overall: 1st Ruth (J/109, B, W, A, T & P Shanahan, National YC) Corrected Time: 1 day 23hrs 30 minutes & 48 seconds; 2nd Mojito (J/109) Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli SC) 1:23:51:50; 3rd Aurelia (J/122, Chris & Patanne Power Smith, Royal St George YC) 2:0:15:52; 4th Dear Prudence (J/109, Jonathan Bourke, Manhattan YC) 2:1:18:14; 5th Alchimiste (JPK 9.60, Mike Murphy, National YC) 2:1:19:04; 6th Aquelina (J/122. James & Sheila Tyrrell, Arklow SC) 2:1:31:10

Two-handed Division: 1st Blue Eyes (Elan 340, Colm Buckley & Simon Knowles, Howth YC) 2:4:27:10; 2nd Joker (Sigma 38, David Gibbons, Kinsale YC) 2:7:24:19

Cruising: 1st Amazing Grace (Oyster 37, Brian O'Sullivan & Frances Clifford, Tralee Bay SC) 2:8:46:54; 2nd Yahtzee (Beneteau Oceanis 411, Richard Mossop, Dun Laoghaire Motor YC) 2:7:58:48; 3rd Lady Rowena (Sadler 34, David Bolger RStGYC) 2:8:41:10

Published in Dun Laoghaire Dingle

RoundIreland14 – It has been a classic Round Ireland Race. Just about everything except a gale, and even then there was some gear-breaking wind in the latter stages. But mostly, the sun shone. Or at least, there was little or no rain until Friday. And even if the wind didn't blow nearly enough, even those on the smaller boats who had committed a week's holiday time to this very special experience found they stayed within their leave limits, though only just.

When Wicklow farmer David Ryan confirmed in May that he had chartered the Volvo 70 Monster Project for the 2014 Round Ireland Race starting June 28th, he was succinct in his objectives. The bottom line was to support the Care For Shane campaign, which is raising funds for his nephew Shane Horgan, who was brain-damaged in a serious assault in 2012.

With the foundation of the plan in place, the details could be filled in. The Volvo 70 chosen was Russian, built in 2008 by Green Marine of Lymington. Owing to a shortage of funds during the race itself in 2008-2009, she didn't compete in all the legs. But once that race was over, here was this fine big Rob Humphreys design seeking a purpose, with time available to bring her up to standard. And she'd a new commercially-minded owner who cheerfully re-named the boat Monster Project, and worked on the basis of scouting out fresh fields for competition, as the Volvo World organisation was moving on to a new generation of boats in the next race.

But for round Ireland racing with fund-raising a priority, Monster Project ticked all the boxes. Nevertheless, Farmer Ryan was very realistic in his objectives. For sure, he hoped he might break the race's course record, which is a very different thing from the open round Ireland mono-hull record. But if he harboured even the slimmest hope of winning overall on corrected time, he kept it to himself. Yet he clearly stated that the main race objective was to win line honours – "first over the line for Shane". And at 18:25:25 hours on Wednesday July 2nd in a brisk southerly off the Wicklow pierheads with the enthusiastic support of the home crowd, Monster Project did that very thing.

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Job done. Monster Project takes line honours at Wicklow. Photo: Aidan Tarbett

As she was 70ft LOA and the next three biggest boats were "only" 60ft, it may have seemed a foregone conclusion. But the Round Ireland Race really is a case of swings and roundabouts and big dippers from time to time for every one of the 36 boats taking part. So though the Wicklow Monster may have built up a lead of 32 miles over the Open 60 Teng Tools Kilcullen (Eamon Crosbie & Enda O'Coineen) by the time she finished, she'd surely had to work for it. And had there been more fast off the wind stuff, things might have gone otherwise.

Despite the 10ft difference in length, the Open 60's potential is such that she rates an eye-watering 1.635 to the 1.6498 of Monster Project. So in rating terms the two boats were almost racing boat-for-boat, and in tactical terms that's the way Monster's 18-strong crew of all the talents had to see it.

But of course, with the predictions of light airs and calms for the first half of the week coming all too true, within 24 hours of the start it was becoming highly likely that one of the smaller boats would win, and low ratings became pearls beyond price. Observing it all and getting feedback from many sources, you became aware of the "Community of the Round Ireland Race" as the miles were slowly sailed. Their boats may have covered a wide variety of types and sizes, but the crews sharing this experience were joined together in a subtle way which gently but totally excluded outsiders.

You'd a sense of this in Wicklow as start time approached and the tension built up, with crews beginning to distance themselves from the shore crowds. Indeed, I got a blast of it in the car on the way down, listening to the Saturday morning's Down to Business programme on Newstalk, which is normally fronted by Bobby Kerr.

But as he was off to do the race on the fine big Farr 60 Newstalk for Adrenalin (chartered by Joe McDonald of the National YC), they'd a stand-in presenter. On the car radio, Kerr (a boat-owner himself) was trying to explain from the Farr 60 – with his usual zest – the special attractions of the Round Ireland Race to the American woman business journalist who was filling in for him in the studio. But he wasn't really making much progress. Her genuinely sceptical response to his enthusiasm for working coffee grinder winches and standing four hour watches 24 hours a day – and every chance of being called when you're off watch too – reminded me of the classic Bob Newhart sketch about the introduction of tobacco. The mutual incomprehension was just about total. And if Bobby Kerr can't explain the special attraction of racing round Ireland on his own radio show, then why do the rest of us even try?

The Round Ireland Race produces many imponderables. For instance, there's the matter of the new harbour and marina at Greystones finally hitting the headlines as a result of having Monster Project and Newstalk for Adrenalin based there in the leadup to the race, as Wicklow Harbour isn't really deep enough for them and both needed a pontoon berth.

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Arise, Greystones, and join the big time.....having Monster Project and Newstalk for Adrenalin in port pre-race raised Greystone's pofile something wonderful. Photo: Alan Corr

So Afloat.ie posted a pic from Alan Corr of Greystones Harbour showing the two biggies in port, and by sailing website standards it went viral. All because it's hashtagged #greystones. So be warned, in future you may find some very sleepy stories #greystones here on Afloat.ie if we hope to get them the Monster Newstalk level of attention.

But enough. Just as the sailor/spectator divide was beginning to manifest itself, I managed to get myself on board Wildwood for a quick recce. Not only was she the shortest entrant at just 30.5ft, but she was the newest with a build date of 2012. Yet in truth she was building since 2003, as this has been an extraordinary amateur design and build project, a case of good work done by stealth.

Though Wildwood sails from East Antrim Boat Club on Larne Lough, the first gleam of a notion came in the bar at Carrickfergus SC. Over a pint or three, amateur designer Richard McClure and can-do potential owner Ian Patterson sketched out ideas for a handy little dream performance cruiser-racer.

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Little self-build 30-footer Wildwood (seen here outside the J/109 Mojito) came down from Larne to Wicklow for her first stab at the IRC big time. Photo: W M Nixon

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Ian Patterson built Wildwood between 2003 and 2012, and they've won their class in the Scottish Three Peaks Race Photo: W M Nixon

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Wildwood brought her shore support team – they came down from Larne with a couple of camper vans Photo: W M Nixon

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Below, Wildwood is roomy, with a highly individual layout Photo: W M Nixon

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Wildwood has a substantial galley which wouldn't look out of place on a 40 footer. Photo: W M Nixon

It will be a good story to flesh out in more detail during the coming winter. Sufficient to say that she was launched in 2012 and arrived in Wicklow in June 2014 with honours already achieved by winning their class in last year's Scottish Three Peaks Race.

Nevertheless, despite the cheerful quayside support of family and friends who have stayed with the Wildwood project through its long gestation, the mood aboard was a bit subdued. The Scottish race had been on very basic handicaps, but the Round Ireland – which itself started in 1980 using a Wicklow modification of the ECHO system – is now part of the RORC programme, using strictly regulated IRC.

This new measurement routine put little Wildwood up from her notional rating of 1.02 to an official rating of 1.045. That may not seem like a huge jump, but for the crew of a little boat which prefers fast offwind stuff yet was going out to face a long beat right up Ireland's long Atlantic seaboard, it seemed like yet another mountain to climb.

But out they all go for the start, these 36 boats in all shapes and sizes, and any crewmember who denies abdominal butterflies at this time is either in denial, or so full of Stugeron they don't know what's going on below their navel.

With a decent nor'east breeze and a sluicing ebb running south, it's a tricky close reaching start at 1400 hours, but Teng Tools Kilcullen and serial overall winner Cavatina (Ian Hickey) are right there on time, and the only shunt in the body of the fleet is between western boats Lynx Clipper (Galway) and E F Collins/Amazing Grace (Tralee), with the latter returning to port to fix a fist-sized hole in her stern and set out again after some hours with a post-race protest in the offing.

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Out of the ruck of the start, the little Cavatina showed well among a raft of larger boats. Photo: David O'Brien

Coming out of the start, with boats which would emerge as performers as the race went on starting to show themselves. The Sydney 36 Tanit is left foreground, the Rodman JV 42 Phosphorus (Mark Emerson) is making hay with Code 0, the "steady Eddy" Ker 39 Inis Mor is right front, and the big Farr 60 Newstalk for Adrenalin is starting to show a performance which just kept getting better throughout the race. Photo: W M Nixon

Thanks to the Yellowbrick plotters, following the fleet has become like a computer game. If you're bored with the progress, you can always accelerate them electronically up and down along the course, with it all becoming – as the less reverent have remarked – like a pack of rats trying to get up a drainpipe.

It's when you see it reduced to symbols on a screen in the big picture that you realise how restrictive the round Ireland is for epic tactical gambles. In the Newport-Bermuda race, for instance, the 600 miles of straight line across the open ocean provides a broad canvas, and the famous Carina once notched one of her legendary wins by being all of 60 miles to the westward of the rhumb line. But in the round Ireland, only along the south coast is there a decent option for taking a real flyer, and it was there south of Youghal that Teng Tools went offshore as the wind drew sou'westerly, while the nearby and faster-to-windward Monster Project went off to close the land and cover the French Volvo 60 Libertalia and Newstalk for Adrenalin.

Monster put those two well away, but at the Fastnet she was only 20 minutes ahead of Teng Tools Kilcullen shortly after noon on Sunday, TTK coming sweetly in from seaward and doing very well in conditions which didn't really suit her at all.

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Teng Tools Kilcullen at the Fastnet 21.5 hours after the start. Photo: Paul O'Flynn

In fact, if you'd set out to design a race which didn't at all suit an Open 60, then the 2014 Round Ireland would be in the top five. An awful lot of light windward work, and gates at every turn. In these conditions, a Volvo 70 is more flexible, but even so on Tuesday as Monster sat stopped off Inishtrahull, TTK was close to the southwest and energetically tacking inshore along the north coast of Donegal against a local easterly, keeping herself well in touch.

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Fine day out west – the Kerry coast with the Blaskets as seen from Liam Shanahan's J/109 Ruth

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Good morning, Ireland. The Scottish Sydney 36 Tanit (Richard Harris) enjoys a summer sunrise on the Atlantic coast, even if they do have to turn to windward. Photo: Roisin Harris

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Even with all June's sunshine, the North Atlantic was distinctly chilly for this swim from the First 40 Arthur Logic

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Downtime on the Sydney 36 Tanit out in the Atlantic. Owner Richard Harris sails under the burgee of the Serpent YC, a Scottish club founded in 1976 for sailing health professionals. Photo: Roisin Harris

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All hands to the lee rail to get a bit of heel on the hefty Swan 57 Bow Waves Racing from Galway as she makes slowly to windward off the Atlantic coast.

The two biggest boats then had an awful lot of hard work tacking through the North Channel, but astern Newstalk was getting into the groove, and by the time Monster was finishing the Farr 60 had seen off the Volvo Ocean 60, and was giving TTK a bad time.

With the new southerly filling in with gusto, the little boats still off the Donegal coast were making hay, with Cavatina coming in round Tory Island well up with the Swan 57 Bow Waves from Galway. Cavatina's crew were having the time of their lives and living well with it – they tweeted the cooking spuds which power the boat, presumably with buckets of Barry's tea. However, until Donegal the talking point had been the impressive game of catch-up being played by Brian O'Sullivan and his Tralee Bay crew in the Oyster 37 E F Collins/Amazing Grace, as they were ninth overall in IRC at one stage, and of course if their protest was upheld post-race, Heaven only knows what compensatory time would be added.

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Grub up! In many years of successful Round Ireland racing, Cavatina's crew have learned the importance of feeding the inner man.

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The brisk new sou'wester brought the Swan 57 Bow Waves Racing sweeping in past Tory Island, but she'd the much-smaller Cavatina in sight astern.

But that spirited performance ended with a bang on Wednesday with a broken mainboom which, together with other problems, led to their withdrawal. However, there were plenty of others to take their place in challenging for the overall lead, with Liam Shanahan and his crew from the National YC in the J/109 Ruth getting themselves firmly ahead of Frank Doyle's A 35 Endgame from Cork, while the attractive Sydney 36 Tanit from Scotland was also very much in the running.

Looking at the fleet overall as they made along the Donegal coast, there were discernible patterns emerging, with boats you'd call the "solid performers" starring on the track chart. These were boats such as Inis Mor, Tanit and Ruth which always seemed to be there or thereabouts, always plugging away and showing a clean pair of heels to the nearest-rated boats, and always well placed such that if local wind and tide conditions favoured them, they were poised to ascend rapidly to the top of the leaderboard.

As for the "sail training" vessels, in the closing stages the Jeanneau Sunfast 37 Desert Star of Irish Offshore Sailing at one stage on Wednesday found herself lying second overall to Cavatina. But with 170 miles still to go, and most of them to windward, it was going to be hard work for a keen multicultural crew of many nationalities to maintain this exalted placing.

It was Thursday morning which was crunch time. Having filled in from the south, there was a brief period in which the wind veered towards the west, and with Monster Project well finished and then Teng Tools Kilcullen, Newstalk for Adrenalin and Libertalia finishing during the night, first light saw the steady and reliable Inis Mor finishing at 04:13:56 to stake a claim which was challenged by boats such as Tanit and Ruth closing up from astern in a now-favourable tide, the tide having been against Inis Mor all the way down from Rockabill except for the last hour or so.

The challenge from a hundred miles away of Cavatina faded for a while with light airs off Belfast Lough and a foul tide in the North Channel. But in the south end of the Irish Sea and through St George's Channel, the sou'west to west breeze was holding enough to have Tanit and Ruth moving theoretically into the top slots ahead of Inis Mor. But then with the tide turning again to run north around 0900 hrs, it was to be nail biting stuff through Thursday morning.

Tanit was in by 10:00:44 hrs on Thursday, leaving the lower-rated Ruth with a mountain to climb, the tide against her and the breeze light. It was excruciating to follow, with her speed down at times to barely a knot over the ground off Greystones, and the lovely Wicklow coastline just crawling past at snail's pace. Meanwhile, far astern Cavatina was back in business with just 80 miles to sail, and a local breeze giving her better than 5 knots on the clock.

Meanwhile by 1300hrs Ruth had just 5 miles to go, and speed slowly building as the wind was generating around big clouds over Dublin.

But by just after 2pm Thursday it was clear Tanit had pipped Ruth for the clubhouse lead. Ruth had looked all set to be the leader until a cruel combination of decreasing wind and increasing adverse tide held her up within sight of the Wicklow finish. Tanit,  safely in the club, knew that any setback to Ruth's progress would establish them as the target boat for the rest of the fleet. Wicklow Sailing Club could not formally announce the winner until much later on Friday as the last of the boatts finished but it was clear not even Cavatina who had until 2am on Friday could match the time of the Scottish Sydney 36.

They and all the other competitors will have this weekend to decompress and try to explain to family, friends and workmates just what this crazy Round Ireland Race thing is all about. But it isn't until the great prize giving dinner in Wicklow in the Autumn that they can all really tell the stories that just have to be told, and tell them to people who will really understand.

Published in W M Nixon

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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