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Matt Davis is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" for September. The youthful Skerries skipper and his crew of all the talents from Fingal successfully defended the Irish Sea Offshore Championship with a dedicated season-long campaign in their Sigma 400 Raging Bull.

The welcome revival of the offshore racing programme in the Irish Sea has been steered by Peter Ryan of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, but without the enthusiastic crew like the Skerries squad, it just wouldn't happen.

Apart from the continuous effort of keeping a frontline offshore racer and all her equipment in sound working order, the demands on personnel for time in this crowded era can be quite exceptional. The logistics are formidable, as the regular cross channel ISORA programme is based on a willingness to alternate between starting points on the Welsh and Irish coast.

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Matt Davis and crew on board Raging Bull in one of this year's ISORA races. Photo: Brian Carlin

For boats heading for an away start, it often involves an overnight passage beforehand. In the case of Raging Bull, all starts are away events, as the programme does not as yet take in Skerries. But we can hope that this will change in the future, as the nucleus of a Fingal offshore racing group develops around the Davis success.

With the summer of 2011's uneven weather, Raging Bull's crew had to be fit and ready to take full advantage of their boat's proven ability in rugged weather, while at the same time managing to turn in a respectable performance in light airs.

For the first time, the biennial Dun Laoghaire-Dingle race was recognized as an ISORA event, and Davis and his crew revelled in it. For much of the race they were the only boat mounting a significant challenge to the pace setter, Martin Breen's Reflex 38 Galway Harbour. Though the Skerries boat had to be content with the runner-up slot to the Galway boat in Dingle, they were first of all the ISORA participants, a top score which stood well to them when they continued with the Irish Sea programme right up until mid-September. Despite the limited size of the harbour, the maritime spirit of Skerries is manifesting itself in many areas of sailing, and Matt Davis's achievement is typical of the special Fingal fervour.

More on Matt's 2011 victory in Autumn Afloat magazine out next week!

More ISORA News here

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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