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The extensive area of calms and light winds north of the Canary Islands did provide some gratefully-received local zephyrs last night for the Mini-Transat 2017 fleet writes W M Nixon. But although at one stage Ireland’s sole entry Tom Dolan had worked his way up to ninth place in the 56-strong Production Class, this morning a line of favourable breeze has been found by Remi Aubrun, and he leads at 3.9 knots with 150 miles to go, while Dolan has slipped down to 12th and is 30 miles astern, struggling in this morning’s lineup at just 1.1 knots.

But nearer the still-distant finish line, Erwan Le Droulac has found much the best local bite to the breeze, and is shown on 5.6 knots and only 2.4 miles astern of leader Aubrun. Overall, this marks a severe reversal of fortune for several-times-leader Clarisse Cremer, as she has cascaded down to 10th place, less than a mile ahead of Tom Dolan, and is making only 1.2 knots.

At the moment the race is such a lottery that the top priority for the lone skippers is not to finish too far astray on the main bunch. This is because the final placings in the Mini-Transat, after it has been completed with the second stage to the Caribbean, will be based on an accumulation of the elapsed times from Stages 1 & 2.

Nevertheless the fact that Tom Dolan is currently battling with Clarisse Cremer, who at one stage was so clear ahead that she’d a gap on the next boat of 16 miles, shows how astonishingly well the Irish skipper has recovered from his initial place at the back of the fleet a couple of hours after the start at La Rochelle nine days ago.

The prospect is for the winds maybe to firm in around the Canaries later tomorrow. But there’ll be hunger for wind – and just plain old-fashioned hunger for food, which may be running low by this stage on some boats – for a day or so yet.

Race tracker here

Published in Solo Sailing

With 312 entries in the IRC divisions alone, and numbers pushing towards the 400 mark when all classes are included, the record-breaking Fastnet Race 2017 was surely on the edge of becoming an unwieldy beast as it got under way in classic style westward down the Solent on Sunday August 6th. Add in the fact that the mountain of results was only being finalised on the following Friday, when the rhythm of the sporting week was already starting to bring major weekend arena events to the top of the demanding media agenda, and you inevitably have the prescription for a hasty allocation of subsidiary awards which risks seeing some trophies going to the wrong recipients. W M Nixon takes a look at how it all eventually came right in one very special case.

The Roger Justice Trophy is a handsome cup in the Rolex Fastnet Race array of silverware, yet it’s a cup for which nobody specifically competes. It goes to whichever offshore sailing school has done best in the overall results, and there were upwards of thirty boats eligible for it in 2017. But as Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School tersely comments, if you’re racing a school boat in the Fastnet and you’re only interested in the Roger Justice Trophy, then you’re missing the point completely.

For as he sees it, the entire purpose of taking your training vessel in the Fastnet is to throw the tyro crew into open competition. You’re not seeking any special concessions because you’re a school boat. On the contrary, you’re there because this is the big boys’ game. You’re playing by the big boys’ rules. And you’re taking on the very best of them head-to-head, with no concessions expected.

jedi fastnet start2Head-to-head competition in the open fleet with no concessions expected. Jedi makes a dream of a port tack start in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. And yes, she did pass clear ahead of that boat (top left) romping in on starboard tack. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

The story of how the Irish National Sailing School in its busy corner of the Inner Harbour of Dun Laoghaire came into being in the 1970s is now the stuff of legend. Our most recent detailed look at it came in this blog on 16th May 2015, when we headlined with an account of how school founder Alistair Rumball had expanded his additional advisory and boat provision role with the TV and movie business by organising the longships for the television series Vikings, thereby providing an additional income source to help the INSS through the depths of the economic recession.

In this he had the full support of his wife Muriel, who is the overall administrator of the school. And as it was a situation that demanded sacrifices in terms of working hours, pay and conditions which could never be expected from a non-family employee, their son Kenneth jacked in his job in Dublin as an accountant, and became the on-water principal.

By 2015 the light at the end of the tunnel had become a warm, steady and reassuring glow, and when we were there on a May evening, things were definitely on the up-and-up. In the basic but very functional premises, the first committee meeting of the recently-formed Irish National Sailing Club was being held. It had been set up in order to organize races and provide sailing school graduates with a club membership to comply with major event requirements, and to reflect that while the INSS was definitely a school, for many participants it had attractive elements of a club about it.

alistair muriel kenneth3Alistair, Muriel and Kenneth Rumball – the family’s devoted work with the Irish National Sailing School has made an enormous contribution to Irish sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

Alistair was busier than ever with Viking ships which had to be replaced from time to time just wherever he could find a builder who could comply with strict standards and a tight budget, and Kenneth was thinking ahead to further development of the uses of a fleet which included craft up to 1720s size, with the Reflex 38 Lynx in prospect as the school flagship with serious offshore racing possibilities.

In the intervening two and more years, many things have happened. Sadly, Alistair’s brother Arthur died much mourned in December 2016. He had been a cornerstone of the school structure as he was in charge of maintenance of the enormous, very varied and growing training fleet, but he’d trained his staff well, and his high standards have been maintained.

But by December 2016, the club’s fleet structure had been enhanced with the addition of the Reflex 38 which Kenneth had skippered to tenth overall in the fleet of 63 boats in the Volvo Round Ireland Race, winning the sailing schools division.

Yet despite this successful debut on what was now the international scene, they’d already concluded that the technically difficult Reflex 38 was not the ideal offshore racing boat for a Dun Laoghaire-based sailing school to make the best use of the unique combination of possibilities which Dublin Bay and its adjacent long distance racing areas provided.

Longterm readers of Afloat.ie don’t need reminding that we have been banging on for a very long time indeed about just how ideal is the J/109 to embody Dublin Bay’s noble One-Design tradition. So when word came through that the Irish National Sailing School had bought the 2002-built J/109 Jedi II with the aim of serious campaigning in the 2017 season, it was very good news indeed.

It’s the perfect package – a very manageable boat, straightforward to sail with a bowsprit and asymmetricals, plenty of sister-ships to pace yourself against offshore, and a cracking fleet in Dublin Bay to give INSS students a taste of inshore One-Design racing at its very best.

kenneth rumball4Kenneth Rumball in the INSS’s decidedly basic premises on Dun Laoghaire’s Inner Harbour this week. He took a 15-year-old J/109 and transformed her into a race winner. Photo: W M Nixon

But there was much to be done to bring Jedi up to Kenneth Rumball’s demanding requirements. At 29, he was already a successful veteran of the Round Ireland, Fastnet, Middle Sea and Sydney-Hobart Races. So a year’s campaigning culminating in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 demanded a programme of painstaking remedial work to optimize Jedi for the serious stuff.

In doing this, he was helped by two things. Arthur Rumball’s legacy was a skilled workshop staff who could assist Kenneth in reducing superfluous weight in Jedi – in all, about 350 kilogrammes of unnecessary equipment and “ornaments” came out of her, while her underwater hull was taken down to the gelcost and her keel got a proper fairing. But as well, Andrew Algeo had also recently also joined the Dublin Bay J/109 fleet with the newer Joggerknot. He too was engaged in optimizing her for the high standard of racing of the Dun Laoghaire fleet, so between them they provided a real Brain’s Trust for the exchange and implementation of ideas.

At a high point in January 2017, it looked as if the INSS might have two boats in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. Kenneth had just come back from racing the Sydney-Hobart in a First 40, and was filled with enthusiasm for the potential of having the school’s two boats in the Fastnet. So he set up two Rolex Fastnet Race 2017s entry procedures side-by-side on two separate laptops on the school’s work table. There was just time to have everything in order as the closing date arrived, and for those who have had difficulty in even getting their Fastnet Race entry considered, it will be maddening to hear that both INSS boats made the cut.

But over the coming months, harsh reality intervened as the sheer logistics challenge of managing and manning two proper school entries from a base in Dun Laoghaire in a race starting off Cowes became apparent, and Lynx’s slot was returned to the RORC office.

Thanks to this slimming of the operation, things were looking very good for the season’s campaigning of the revitalized Jedi. Early races were providing increasingly encouraging results, and the places in the training programme towards participation in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 had been quickly snapped up and money paid up front by a diverse line-up of trainees. This meant they’d comfortably comply with the RORC’s fairly modest definition of a sailing school entry as a boat which was sailing school-owned, and had a 50/50 lineup between experienced and trainee crew.

It has to be remembered that this was all taking shape as the INSS was entering its busiest time of the year in its core activity of being a sailing school which gets hundreds of people from every background afloat in a wide variety of boats in Dublin Bay, a significant proportion of them for the very first time.

jedi leading5Jedi leading the offshore fleet. The combination of Dublin Bay One-Design sailing with the J/109s, combined with readily-available offshore racing, offers a superb opportunity to learn – but only for those who can stick the pace. Photo: Afloat.ie

So it was a cruel blow when the wheels came off the Jedi programme on May 13th with the ISORA Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire Race. A rugged event with wind-over-tide conditions and the sea at its coldest, it may have seen hardened veterans like Paul O’Higgins and his tough crew in the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI revelling in the going to win, and there was also good going by second-placed Transatlantic veteran Conor Fogerty in the Sunfast 3600 Bam. But aboard Jedi there was misery and seasickness rampant among the trainees, and at race’s end three of them pulled out of the Fastnet programme.

They’d already paid up, but in time an amicable financial settlement was reached, and Kenneth Rumball set about filling the empty places, though as the end of May approached, he was not feeling optimistic. Yet they managed to get a crew with the right configuration together for the vital Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on 11th June, seen as a key qualifier and training event, yet here too things went pear-shaped.

The unbelievably rugged beat round Ireland’s rocky southeast corner took a savage toll with wholesale retirals, and one of Jedi’s crew became ill beyond seasickness. It was feared they were having a stroke, and the whole purpose on board became focussed on getting into Dunmore East as quickly as possible and getting the casualty to hospital, where recovery was complete. But by the time that had been done, it was clear they were out of the race, and they sailed disconsolately back to Dun Laoghaire to pick up the pieces.

Fortunately the rest of the crew were still more than game for the Fastnet challenge, and they’d ISORA’s Lyver Trophy Race on June 30th before the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from 6th to 9th July to provide the final necessary qualifier. But the race was postponed because of a severe gale, put back to a date three weeks hence, which would leave the final Jedi qualifier only a narrow window of opportunity.

Yet suddenly, they were in a time of hope. Jedi with many of her potential Fastnet crew on board had a great Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. They finished second in class, and the team were bonding in a very encouraging way.

Jedi vdlr6When it all finally started to come together. Alistair & Muriel Rumball with Jedi’s crew at the prize-giving ceremony for Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta, July 9th 2017. To celebrate Dun Laoghaire’s 200th Anniversary, one of the prizes was a picture of the first regatta at the harbour, in 1828.

Two weeks later, the Lyver Trophy was sailed on July 21st from Holyhead round Rockabill to Dun Laoghaire, and they’d a good race of it. Although the winner was the all-conquering J/109 Sgrech (Stephen Tudor), Rumball and his crew were right in the thick of it chasing in a three-way match race with sister ship Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), and they finished with the feeling that at last they had the basis of a proper Fastnet challenge, albeit with just a fortnight to go to the start.

So the fact that Kenneth Rumball finally filled in the form to define them as a sailing school entry with less than a fortnight to go to the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 may have had something to do with the subsequent initial post-race mis-allocation of an award. He himself regarded the sailing school thing as very secondary to the core Jedei theme of being in the midst of the main fleet, and in any case he had the prodigious logistical challenge of transferring the focal point of the campaign from the school office in Dun Laoghaire to the Solent.

In times long past, anyone doing the Fastnet Race expected to spend the days beforehand berthed in Cowes. But with current entry numbers and the Solent area’s overcrowded situation, being in Cowes is if anything a disadvantage for a campaign from Dublin with limited resources and very extended lines of communication. In the circumstances, the way the Jedi team handled this was real textbook stuff.

Time and personnel resources were of the essence, so they arranged for the boat to be delivered on a semi-professional basis to the relative peace and quiet of Mercury Yacht Harbour well up the Hamble River over on the Solent’s mainland shore. And while the rest of the crew flew over in time to allow three clear days for final preparation, Kenneth and Lorcan Tighe stocked up a mini-bus to double as shore transport and a workshop/storeroom, and they took the Holyead ferry and drove it post-haste to the Hamble

jedi crew7Just ever so slightly nervous….Jedi crew in Mercury Yacht Harbour on the River Hamble early on the morning of the start of the Rolex Fastet Race 2017 

Lorcan Tighe (17) may have been be Jedi’s most junior crewman in terms of age, but he was one of the most experienced on board. From Killiney in Dublin, his family is non-sailing though his dad is into scuba diving. But when he was just six, Lorcan took a week-long course at the INSS, and was hooked. So although he now has his own Laser based at the National YC, his heart stays with the INSS where he instructs evenings and weekends and during holidays (he’s in final year at Marian College in Ballsbridge). And he’s mad keen on the offshore thing, taking on the hugely challenging job of being the bowman on Lynx during the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race.

He’s a talented helmsman too, so he was very much on the “experienced sailor” side of the equation aboard Jedi, where the co-skipper with Kenneth Rumball was Conor Kinsella (28), who’s from Tullamore and works in finance.

As for the “trainees”, they were very much of the Ireland of today. Deirdre Foley works in banking, Kylie McMillan (29) is in financial consulting, Keith Kiernan (41) is in insurance, George Tottenham (38) is in windfarms, and Fearghus McCormack – whom Kenneth Rumball reckons to be about 40 – is Mine Host of that splendid establishment, the Merrion Inn in the heart of Dublin 4.

Kenneth Rumball is refreshingly non-ageist, so apart from Lorcan Tighe who put us right on his young age, all those ages are only guesses. And Rumball is also refreshingly dismissive of the whole experienced/trainee divide. As far as he and his shipmates were concerned, they were a team, they were crew together, they had a joint mission to perform and everyone was doing his or her very best, and that was all there was to it. There were emphatically no artificial them-and-us divisions on Jedi.

jedi departs8Here we go…Jedi leaves the now-familiar surroundings of Mercury Yacht Harbour, heading for the start of the Fastnet Race

After such a saga of setback and breakthrough, the Fastnet Race itself could have just been just the concluding chapter in an extraordinary tale of triumph over tribulation. But of course for Jedi’s crew, it was the pinnacle. And it was high adrenalin stuff from the start. Kenneth Rumball set out to take on the best of the opposition head-to-head, and he’d the great Carlo Borlenghi to photograph the moment when Jedi made the sort of clear-away port tack start that is inevitable in traditional Fastnet conditions, yet few manage it so well.

As for the race itself, Deirdre Foley speaks for all with her enthusiastic memories: “I loved every minute of it. Superior planning and attention to tactics/routes etc, a great crew – great sense of humour and craic……on water we had some great wind overnight on our return journey to Plymouth – what looked to be a full moon, nice sea state, Jedi flying along like the wind, for me the best part of a wonderful race”

Young Loran Tighe takes, as you’d expect, a mature overview despite his youth. After all, this is a guy who was working the foredeck of Lynx at the age of 16, racing through the night off Ireland’s Atlantic coast:

“It was great to get the chance to experience the Fastnet Race, but also everything that led up to it including the ISORA series and Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Great boat, good plan, and in the end, a crew put together that made a super season of it”.

As to the actual race, the irony of it is that it looked as though they were having their closest race with sister-ship Mojito from the other side of the Irish Sea but the reality of a fleet the size of the Fastnet is that you’ve races going on at every side of you, and in the end the way that conditions of tide, wind and whatever pan out will mean that boats a certain size, type, and rating cohort will win out.

Thus everything was going the way of Jedi and her cohort after beating out to the Fastnet in classic style. The overall leader on IRC at the Rock was the JPK 10.10 Night and Day (Pascal Loison), with fellow French skipper Noel Racine second in sister-ship Foggy Dew, while third was Ireland’s Paul Kavanagh in the vintage Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan.

Their ratings are 1.003, 1.002 and 0.985 respectively, which tells us much. Mojito at the stage was at he best place in the race, she was ninth overall rating 1.010, while Jedi was in contention, rating 1.008 and in 11th place overall, just one place ahead of RORC Commodore Michael Boyd of the RIYC racing the first 44.7 Lisa.

jedi fastnet9On top of the world….with 17-year-old Lorcan Tighe on the wheel, Jedi heads for Plymouth from the Fastnet Rock lying 11th overall in the 312-strong fleet

But on the fast sail back to Plymouth, it was boats around the 40ft mark which carried the favourable conditions best, and the JNA 39 Llan Ael 2 (Didier Gaoudoux, France) rose up the rankings from 29th overall at the Rock to become overall winner, while Lisa was remarkably consistent to move up from 12th to 8th.

But for the smaller J/109s, things became distinctly unfavourable, and though Jedi did indeed run like the wind, getting ahead of Mojito despite seeing her A3 blow out when it shouldn’t have, by the time she was in the final approaches to Plynouth the bite had long gone gone from the wind, and she cascaded down to 58th overall.

She was still very much the first J/109, and while she was 8th in IRC 3, she was first in IRC 3B for boats doing their first Fastnet. There was a cherished medallion in line for that, for a first in class in the greatest Rolex Fastnet Race ever held is something very special.

jedi plymouth approach10Aboard Jedi approaching Plymouth and the finish as night draws on, Thursday 10th August. The wind is slipping away, and she no longer holds a top overall placing, but is leading Class 3B.

On that crowded Friday afternoon in Plymouth with mountains of results figures still being assimilated and analysed, the Roger Justice Trophy went to a Sailing School Farr 60. Something strange here. A scan of the results showed that Jedi been well ahead of that Farr 60 on corrected time. But with everyone going their various ways with Conor Kinsella heading off to retrieve the mini-bus from the Hamble while Kenneth Rumball cruised Jedi home, sorting it out could be left to a later date.

With that Class 3B win under their belt, there was time enough to see about putting the record straight. And when they later contacted the RORC office, they were told that there had indeed indeed been an error, and the winner of the Roger Justice Trophy was Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire in the Sunfast 37 Desert Star, thereby repeating Ronan O Siochru’s success of 2015.

So then they’d to get back to the number crunchers again, and gently suggest to them that it was indeed a Dun Laoghaire-based sailing school which had won the Roger Justice Trophy, but it was a different one - it was the Irish National Sailing School and the boat was called Jedi.

jedi gets justice11Jedi gets Justice – RORC Commodore Michael Boyd, Committee Member Lucy Reynolds, and Kenneth Rumball as the Roger Justice Trophy finally reaches its rightful winner in RORC headquarters in London last week.

It’s understandable that it happened. After all, Jedi’s final fully-qualified crew list as a sailing school was only submitted to the race office with about ten days to go to the start of the race. The sheer weight of data flying about by this stage must have been smothering for those handling it.

But it all came right at the end, though admittedly it was the very end. At an awards ceremony in the RORC in London last week, at the last moment Jedi was finally called forward to receive the Roger Justice Trophy. Forget that old saying about justice delayed is justice denied. In sailing, it’s acceptable if justice is done in due course, and is seen to be done.

Published in W M Nixon

A solid season for Welsh offshore campaigners Peter Dunlop & Victoria Cox was crowned in the pitch dark of Dublin Bay last night when the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race runners–up became overall ISORA champions.

The Irish Sea’s Wolf Head Trophy was decided in Saturday’s blustery last race of the 2017 offshore series.

Mojito Crew photoThe Mojito Crew celebrate their overall win at the National Yacht Club Photo: Peter Ryan

Sgrech J109 isora 0238Defending Champion Sgrech (Stephen Tudor) was beaten in the final stages of the final race. Photo: Afloat.ie

In an epic climax to a memorable offshore season, the outcome of the 2017 ISORA season only unfolded in the final miles of a 60–mile race from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire.

Just as the 37–boat season started, four dominant J109s were in the top position in yesterday's race including a Sailing School entry from Dun Laoghaire, the INSS's Jedi skippered by Kenneith Rumball.

Jedi J109 isora 0363Last race winner Jedi (Kenneth Rumball) finished third overall. Photo: Afloat.ie

It’s been a good summer for Rumball and his INSS students, having picked up a VDLR podium place and Fastnet IRC3B victory in the first season of racing the J109.

Starting at 8am and finishing after 10pm, yesterday's tough Irish Sea Crossing – especially at Bardsey Sound – ended with Rumball's crew winning the last race, not enough to give them overall victory but a very creditable third overall in a debut ISORA season.

Indian J109 isora 0433Colm Buckley's strong finish in the last race upset the overall standings. Photo: Afloat.ie

There were futher twists when Howth J109 Indian skippered by Colm Buckley getting between first Mojito and Sgrech, a result that denied the Stephen Tudor skippered Sgrech a successful defence of the coveted Wolf's Head Trophy. 

Additional reportage from Peter Ryan of ISORA:

Prior to the race, Tudor’s “Sgrech” would win the Championship and retain the coveted “Wolf’s Head” if they beat “Mojito” or even if they were within one place behind “Mojito” in the results, irrespective of the placings. This tight situation led to pre-race tension.

The weather conditions for the race were not ideal with strong north easterly winds forecast providing a long beat for the fleet. Also the fact that there were spring tides on the day just made conditions worse.

The course for the race was from the Start at Pwllheli to round a local racing mark PSC2 before heading through St Tudwal’s Sound, Bardsey Sound and a long 60 mile beat to Kish Lighthouse before the final fetch across Dublin Bay to the finish between the pier heads in Dun Laoghaire.

The weather at the start was rather benign with a north easterly wind of about 15knots and a flat sea. This soon changed as the 20 boat fleet raced through St Tudwal’s Sound and into the start of the overfalls. The first leg was a tight reach. The leg to Bardsey Sound was a fetch with increasing winds and deteriorating sea conditions. As the fleet approached Bardsey Sound the wind had built to a steady 25 knots and the flood spring tide was at its strongest. Bardsey Sound is not the best place at most times but these conditions revealed the nastier side of the area. Mountainous breaking seas bounded the fleet as they were shot through the sound at speed up to 11 knots over the ground. Chris Power Smith's “Aurelia” made a short video of them exiting the Sound – their video below says it all!!

After the fleet exited Bardsey it was a full beat to the Kish Light. At this stage it was obvious that most of the J Boats were match racing with “Jedi”, “Sgrech” and “Mojito” side by side. “Jedi” eventually took the westerly leg and headed towards the banks on the Irish side. “Sgrech”, in an attempt to force “Mojito” to break cover, headed north. “Indian” and “Aurelia” were there but not heavily involved in the “match”. “Jackknife” took and immediate leg north after Bardsey.

When the tide ebbed, the fleet faced tide flows of over 4 knots against them and little progress was made until this ebb tide waned.

Most of the fleet eventually converged around the India Bank, off Wicklow, and it was obvious that the westerly leg was more advantageous. Of the boats that headed north, “Mojito” just led “Sgrech”. When the converge happened “Jedi” had made great progress and was 2 miles ahead of “Mojito”. However “Indian”, who was close to “Jedi , slipped in between “Mojito” and “Sgrech” for the procession fetch along the Codling and Kish banks and the Kish Light.

The last leg from the Kish was a fetch and there was no opportunity for any gains to be made. “Aurelia” took line honours followed by “Jacknife”. This gave Chris Power Smith's Aurelia of the Royal St. George Yacht Club first in IRC Zero class, also winning IRC Zero in the overall Series.

The main procession behind was led by “Jedi” followed by “Mojito”, “Indian” and “Sgrech”.

Due to “Indian’s” gains by heading west with “Jedi” from Bardsey, they slipped between “Mojito” and “Sgrech” to forced “Sgrech” out of their Champion position and allowed Peter Dunlop and Vick Cox and “Mojito” to be crowned ISORA Champions for 2017.

“Jedi” won the race with “Mojito” taking second, “Indian” third and “Sgrech was fourth.  

An end of season party was arranged in the National Yacht Club immediately after the race. Many of the exhausted crew dragged themselves there for some light refreshments. Hon Sec of ISORA and Skipper of “Sgrech”, Stephen Tudor, made the announcement of the new Champion.

The Wolf’s Head will be presented to Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox at the ISORA Annual Dinner, to take place on the 11th November at the National Yacht Club. The ISORA AGM also takes place that afternoon where the race schedule for the 2018 season is set by the members.

Overall results are here

Published in ISORA
Tagged under

With the completion of ISORA's race 11, the Pwllheli night race, the two coastal series, held on both sides of the Irish Sea are now complete, and ISORA has announced the winners of the two coastal series writes Mark Thompson.

The five race Viking Marine Coastal Series coastal series, held in Dublin bay, started races in both Dún Laoghaire and Howth and visited Poolberg, Greystones and Wicklow. It also incorporated the Lee Overlays Partners Lighthouse race, which this year formed part of the Volvo Dún Laoghaire Regatta offshore class, and a night coastal race. 43 boats competed in this popular series, and the winners were as follows:

Class 0 J122 "Aurelia" Chris and Pattane Power Smith
Class 1 J109 "Jedi" Kenneth Rumball
Class 2 Swan 371 "Albireo" David A Simpson

Overall Viking Marine Coastal series winner "Jedi" - Kenneth Rumball

The Global Displays Welsh Coastal Series was a three race series, which raced to all corners of Cardigan bay, and included a night race. With new sponsors this year; Global Displays, we were able to provide the fleet with yellow brick trackers which enabled the use of virtual marks, unmanned finish lines and the ability of shore based supporters to follow the races. 18 boats competed in this series and enjoyed great racing and popular social events after racing was completed. The winner are as follows:

Class 0 J125 "Jackknife" Andrew Hall
Class 1 J109 "Mojito" Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox
Class 2 Dufour 405 "Aquaplane" Mark and Jo Thompson

Overall Global Displays Welsh Coastal Series winner "Mojito" - Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox Vicky cox isora

"Mojito" Co-Skipper Vicky Cox accepting the Global Displays "Midland Bowl" from ISORA Hon Secretary Stephen Tudor. Photo:Gerallt Williams

The final ISORA race of the 2017 season is the James Eadie race on Saturday 9th September which will determine the overall winner of the "Wolfs Head" trophy and confirm the three class winners for 2017.

Published in ISORA

What has been ideal night sailing conditions for this race in past seasons was certainly not ideal last Friday night, 18th August, for ISORA’s Night Race. Weather forecasts all agreed on what faced the fleet of 18–boats that came to the start line writes Peter Ryan, Chairman of ISORA.

Four other boats had earlier pulled out. All forecasts were promising westerly winds of 25–knots and gusting. This was to remain before moderating by early morning.

Due to the conditions the Sailing Committee decided not to use the traditional turning mark on the course, North Arklow, but instead use an inshore course, keeping the fleet away from the banks. The course was: Start at Dun Laoghaire – North Burford (S) – Killiney Outfall (P) – Breeches Buoy (P) – South Burford (S) – Finish between the pier heads in Dun Laoghaire – 36 miles.

The race started in the 25 knots of westerly wind, sending the fleet fast broad reaching towards North Burford. Some of the boats attempted to hoist spinnakers but no great advantage was gained due to handling difficulties as the westerly winds gusted up to 32 knots. Daragh Cafferkey’s “Another Adventure” was first to round followed by Chris Power-Smith’s “Aurelia”.

JEDI INSS ISORA 1773Just back from a top showing at the Rolex Fastnet Race, Kenny Rumball's Jedi from the Irish National Sailing School competed in ISORA's night race and won Class One Photo: Afloat.ie

The next leg was a loose fetch / tight reach down to Killiney Bay. The fleet had split at this stage. “Aurelia” had passed “Another Adventure” to round that mark first. Close behind the leaders was Kenneth Rumball’s “Jedi” of the INSS and Roger Smith’s “Wakey Wakey” and Vincent Farrell’s “Tsunami”.

ISORA night race route18–boats came to the start line for the ISORA night race along the Dublin and Wicklow coast

The next long leg south to Breeches was another broad reach but this time those boats who ventured to hoist spinnakers broke away from the fleet, despite the many broaches. Rounding Breeches Buoy, “Aurelia” still was maintaining its lead just ahead of “Another Adventure”.

The following leg was a fetch north to South Burford. “Aurelia” had by this time extended its lead from “Another Adventure” followed by “Jedi”, Colm Buckley’s “Indian”, “Tsunami” and Paul Egan’s “Platinum Blonde”.

The last leg to the finish was a beat. “Aurelia” continued to extend his lead and took Line Honours, IRC Overall and IRC Class 0. “Jedi” just pipped “Another Adventure” by 26 seconds to take 2nd IRC Overall and IRC Class 1. Derek Dillon’s “Big Deal” took IRC Class 2.

In ECHO, Jim Schofield’s “Thisbe” took Overall and Class 2. “Aurelia” took Class 0 while “Jedi” took Class 1. Full results can be found here

The next race takes place next Saturday, 26th August, a day race from Dun Laoghaire to Greystones. This is one feeder race to the Greystones Regatta to take place the following day. A fleet of 25 boats from a list of 33 entries are expected to make their way to the start line.

MOJITO ISORA J109 1829J109 Mojito holds a narrow lead in the overall Avery Crest Offshore Championship going into the Dun Laoghaire–Greystones race this weekend. Photo: Afloat.ie

The Overall Avery Crest Offshore Championship is hotting up with “Mojito” slightly ahead of the current Champion “Sgrech” and followed closely by “Jedi” and “Aurelia”. With a large fleet expected for the last offshore from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire on the 9th September, it is possible for any one of those boats to snatch the coveted “Wolf’s Head” trophy.

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The final results of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 show that Kenneth Rumball with the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi has won in IRC 3B, where third place has been taken by ISORA’s J/109 Mojito. And RORC Commodore Michael Boyd has been second in IRC 2 with the First 44.7 Lisa.

Clearly, the Irish contingent in this great classic have had a successful time of it despite some extraordinary fluctuations of fortune. But how are such twists of fate to be explained? The Rolex Fastnet Race of modern times can be analysed by the latest technology in so many different ways that, even with the best computers, it can sometimes take much longer to deduce what precisely happened than it took in real time out at sea. So perhaps if we just select a few salient facts, we might be able to get a better overall picture. W M Nixon gives it a try.

If the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 had finished at the Fastnet Rock itself, with the fleet adjourning into Baltimore and Schull to have a party or three, there would have been much for the builders of the successful JPK range to celebrate. And several crews with strong Irish connections would have been quite right in partying to beat the band as well.

nikata at fastnet2Glad morning again….the biggest boat in the race, the JV 115 Nikata (Tom Brewer) rounds the Fastnet Rock at 7 o’clock on Tuesday morning. Photo Rolex

For after an increasingly rugged windward slug the whole way from the start, the overall leader at the Rock was 2013’s winner, the French JPK 10.10 Night & Day, whose achievement was further heightened by the fact that she was being sailed two-handed by father-and-son crew Pascal and Alexis Loison.

And second overall was another seasoned French campaigner, Noel Racine with his JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew. But it’s when we get to third slot that Irish eyes light up, as it was comfortably held by our own Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan. She was all of 11 minutes ahead of yet another French boat, Giles Fournier’s J/133 Pintia, which was fourth overall at the Fastnet.

But close behind in sixth overall was the classic S&S 41 Winsome (Harry Hiejst) helmed by Laura Dillon, Irish Champion Helm in 1996. Winsome had experienced her ups and downs since the start, but when it comes to grown-up windward work, there are still very few boats that can do it like the best 1972 Sparkman & Stephens design, and Winsome had been making hay since Land’s End, marching her way up through the fleet.

However, before we move on to see how these leaders-at-the-Rock finally ended in the rankings in Plymouth, casting an eye further down the Fastnet times continues to be rewarding, as we find that the hot ISORA J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox) was lying 9th overall as she made the turn on Wednesday morning at 7 o’clock, and Kenneth Rumball in command of the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi was only a quarter of an hour later, correcting into 11th overall, which put him one place ahead of our RORC Commodore Michael Boyd in the First 44.7 Lisa.

jedi fastnet3Cheerful times aboard Jedi after rounding the Fastnet, where she’d been placed 11th overall of the entire 312-strong IRC fleet. Photo INSS

nikata volvo65s4Nikata at the start with three of the Volvo 65s. The new Volvo boats had a very close Fastnet Race, with Dongfeng winning by 54 seconds from Mapfre. And they’re being kept busy – on Thursday they raced away from Plymouth, bound for St Malo and Lisbon

Yet of the boats which are now figuring at the top twelve of the overall leaderboard in Plymouth, only Pintia, Lisa and the Grand Soleil 43 Codiam were in the top twelve at the rock. The JNA 39 Lann Ael 2 (Didier Gaudoux), which seemed to come out of nowhere at the finish to snatch the overall lead from Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer, was only 29th at the Fastnet Rock.

As for Privateer, she was well back, in 40th. Yet the way the winds, weather and tides developed for the final 247 miles from Fastnet to finish meant the placings continued to be shaken up until the very end, and it looked for long enough as though Privateer has the big prize until Lann Ael 2 came out of the dark in the small hours of Thursday morning, and took it.

lann ael5The JDA 39 Lann Ael making knots on the way to Plymouth

lann ael6The look of a winner. Lann Ael was not showing up on the Race Tracker for some tehnical reason, but she was very definitely right there, zooming past the Isles of Scilly on her way to the overall win

This means that for the third time in a row, the overall Rolex Fastnet Race winner is French. There’s no doubt about it, but La belle France is on a roll on the offshore scene these days, for if they aren’t themselves actually sailing the winning French-built boats, the chances are they were the designers and builders.

This is an impression which is reinforced by going into the class details, and particularly among the smaller boats. In IRC 3 it’s French-produced boats dominant, with two JPK 10.80s – Dream Pearls and Timeline - separated by just two minutes on corrected time, with Timeline having finished first, but losing through a higher rating.

It’s not until we got down to 9th place in IRC 3 that we break the French stream, and even here the 9th placed Irish J/109 Jedi – which wins IRC 3B - may have been designed in America by the Johnstone team, but I’ve a feeling she was built in France.

The placing means that Jedi got through Mojito in the sometimes wild romp back from the Rock, but all around them positions were changing, and the solid Sparkman & Stephens veterans such as Pomeroy Swan and Winsome, which had shown so well on the dead beat, were losing time all the way while the loghter boats were surfing.

However, while the two overall leaders at the Fastnet, Night & Day and Foggy Dew, slipped down the overall rankings, they maintained their class leads in IRC 4, and let it be noted that Poweroy Swan wasn’t entirely out of the hunt, as she is 4th in IRC 4. But Winsome slipped back to 12th in class.

It’s ironic that of the two former Champion Helms of Ireland whom we know to have been doing the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017, one of them – Laura Dillon – was in a boat which went superbly to windward but wasn’t so competitive downwind, while the other. Nin O’Leary, was in a boat which seemed woeful to windward, but was fastest of the lot as soon as she bore off at the rock.

hugo boss at fastnet7Hugo Boss finally reaches the Fastnet Rock at 3.0pm on Tuesday. Within minutes, she was speeding downwind, up on her foils and making 22 knots
Quite why Nin’s co-skippered IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss was just so poor to windward, even by comparison with other IMOCA 60s, is something for further study. But she’s very much a boat for the wide open spaces, and the relatively short 247 miles from the Fastnet to Plymouth wasn’t nearly long enough for her foils to pick her up properly, and let the big black boat really go like the wind.

It was clearly a race of horses for courses, and while it might be going too far to describe Hugo Boss as a one trick pony, in a complex race like this there were some superb all-round boats which gave a master-class in successfully dealing with a wide variety of conditions and finishing with a mileage which suggested that some other boats were sailing a different race entirely.

malizia racing8The Yacht Club de Monaco’s IMOCA 60 Malizia placed third in class

To re-phrase the great Damon Runyon, the race may not always be to those who sail the shortest distance, but that’s the way the smart money bets. However, the smart money isn’t always completely right. The Fastnet Race course is somewhere between 603 and 608 miles (those pesky Traffic Separation Zones must have changed the classic distance), and it’s of interest to note that the boat which was recorded as sailing the fewest miles, the Italian Mylius 15E25 Ars Una which placed 11th overall, got round in just 655 miles.

pintia start9The French J/133 Pintia (Gilles Fournier) at the start. One of the most consistent boats in the fleet, she was well placed overall at the Fastnet, and went on to win Class 2 while placing fourth overall at the finish

But Winsome, back in 75th overall after being so handsomely placed at the rock, got round in only 656 miles. She pointed higher than most other boats, and made the right tactical choices on the open water outward bound windward leg. But coming back on the fast run, her classic hull shape militated against her no matter how neat a course they sailed.

The detailed results are here

As for the winner Lann Ael 2, she sailed 662 miles, but for the Fastnet-Plymouth stages she had conditions which clearly suited her perfectly, while the Cookson 50 Privateer sailed all of 687 miles, but she sailed them so well she retained second overall. And the great pioneer, the pathfinder in the lead on the water and testing condtions for all those astern, was George David’s Rambler 88. She may have taken line honours in convincing style, but she sailed an astonishing 730 miles to do so, and slipped back to 65th overall when the basic sums were done.

These sums will be re-worked for a long time yet, for this was one very special Rolex Fastnet Race. Our own Michael Boyd captured it so perfectly in his role as Commodore RORC, shortly after he had finished to take second in class, that it’s worth re-running the vid we posted last night, for he did us proud.

Read all of Afloat.ie's 2017 Fastnet Race coverage here 

Published in W M Nixon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The MOD 70 Trimaran Concise 10, skippered by Ned Collier-Wakefield and a veteran of last year’s Volvo Round Ireland race, was first of the record Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 fleet to exit the west end of the Solent today as the huge armada went into the process of getting clear through Hurst Narrows and past the Shingles Bank without hitting each other and the many underwater hazards on either side writes W M Nixon.

A staggered starting process which began to 1100 hrs puts some manners on the fleet, but with a sluicing ebb tide, the challenge of getting into open water with the moderate southwest breeze on the nose was an increasingly exciting business as numbers built up at the Hurst bottleneck.

In the mono-hulls, the starting order means the IMOCA Open 60s are setting the pace, and the French SMA, skippered by Meihat Paul, currently leads, while Hugo Boss (Alex Thompson & Nin O’Leary) is a couple of mies astern in fourth in class, neck-and-neck with Jean-Pierre Dick’s StMichel-Virbec

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Published in Fastnet
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In August 2007, a lone Irish boat swept quickly towards the finish of the Fastnet Race at Plymouth. Groups of larger craft had finished ahead of her, and soon a rush of other boats would follow in her wake. But when Ger O’Rourke of Limerick brought his Cookson 50 Chieftain across the line, he and his crew had the stage to themselves writes W M Nixon

They felt they’d done quite well, but wouldn’t know for sure until hundreds of other boats had been timed in. However, as the hours ticked away, Chieftain’s crew closed in on an overall win which had been achieved despite losing their main electronics before getting past the Lizard on the rough outward passage, and despite having been on the Waiting List rather than the limited-numbers Official Entry List until only a few days before the race actually started.

Chieftain’s owner Ger O’Rourke seemed to thrive on such uncertainty, and as his proposed crew included the formidable talents of the legendary Jochem Visser, he knew that once the Chieftain entry was given the nod, they’d very quickly have a full complement to take on the race.

Other entries - dutifully made many months in advance - fell away as start time approached. A heavy weather forecast may have played a role in this. But it didn’t faze Chieftain’s owner, as his programme that year had already included taking second overall in the rugged New York to Hamburg race, and he knew his canting-keel Farr-designed boat was more truly race-ready than most of the fleet. Getting officially acceptance into the fold, when it came, just seemed part of a larger plan.

chieftain at finish3In the last of the evening sun, Chieftain approaches the finish line Plymouth with Ger O’Rourke on the hel

Chieftain finish plymouth4They’ve done it. Chieftain wins the Rolex Fastnet Race 2007. The lack of anything approaching a crew uniform is testament to the fact that she was accepted as an entry only after more than forty boats had dropped out beforehand

In a stormy race, many boats pulled out, but in the weather pattern which developed, Chieftain was exactly the right size and type of boat to do best. And she’d the crew to enable her to do this, despite having to rely for much of the race on tiny hand-held GPS devices and increasingly wet paper charts.

After the finish, Chieftain’s motley crew could see the growing inevitability of the final result. But the owner refused to go up the town to buy himself a crisp new white shirt for the prize-giving until he’d been shown a document confirming that he was indeed the undisputed overall winner.

Sometime it seems as though it happened only yesterday. But sometimes it seems a very, very long time ago, as Ireland has been through a ferocious economic mincing machine since then. Either way, the reality is that the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017, which starts tomorrow from Cowes in a sequence beginning at 1100 hrs for a record entry list of 384 boats, will mark the Tenth Anniversary of Ireland’s greatest win in an event which is a pillar of world sailing. And it’s an event in which Irish boats have been involved since it was first sailed in 1925 with just seven starters. Our gallant representative, Harry Donegan from Cork with the 17-ton gaff cutter Gull, placed third overall.

Today, the increasing internationalism of sailing – and offshore and ocean racing in particular - is evident throughout the fleet, so much so that it’s almost the norm to have a crew with some mixing of nationalities. Thus in taking a preview, it’s increasingly difficult to say which entry is or isn’t Irish, regardless of simply taking it from the national flag indicated beside the name on the RORC’s entry list.

On top of that, with an entry of 384 boats and entries not officially finalized until the Race Office has the complete crew list with the essential personal information, you can readily visualize how things have been in and around the organisers’ office these past few days.

After one of the roughest Cowes Weeks in years comes to a close today, the Rolex Fastnet Race is expected to start tomorrow in moderate conditions with the hugely impressive sight of the enormous fleet sweeping westward out of the Solent through the Needles Channel, and facing the prospect of a beat down Channel to Land’s End.

Fair weather sailors had been hoping that the ridge from the Azores High might build northeastwards to give summer sailing for the 605-mile race. But we’re in unstable meteorological conditions with the restless Jetstream dictating weather and wind changes, and not all of these can be closely predicted.

rambler 88 racing5If it turns out to be a big boat race, with her unrivalled trio of line honours and IRC wins in three recent RORC races, George David’s Rambler 88 has to be a favourite

Majority opinion has it that it will be a big boat race, as the nor’westers will remain fresh to strong – or even more – until Wednesday, when another little ridge might ease things back for the smaller craft. If it is a big boat race, then in IRC Overall the smart money will be on George David’s Rambler 88. She has been re-writing the form book these past two years, as she took line honours and the overall win in IRC in the Volvo Round Ireland Race last year, and this year she has repeated the remarkable double in both the RORC’s Cowes-St Malo Race and the RORC’s Channel Race.

Certainly it will be interesting to see how she does against the newest 100ft super-maxi, the Ludde Ingvall-skippered CQS from Australia, which was shipped to Europe with the Fastnet Race as her main priority. But in her brief time in the northern hemisphere so far, things haven’t gone her way. She went out to do the Round the Island Sprint on Wednesday with the other biggies when they’d gale fore winds around the south end of the isle of Wight, and while CQS had sail trouble and didn’t excel, the seven brand new Volvo 65s had a magnificent race, with Mapfre (skipper Xabi Fernandez) winning, and the first three breaking the Round the Island Mono-hull Record.

mapfre round island6The completely new strictly one-design Volvo 65 Mapfre (skipper Xabi Fernandez) on her way to winning the Round Isle of Wight sprint on Wednesday, and creating a new record while she was at it.

There was almost an Irish interest in this as our own Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy was being lined up for a crew test for the all-women panel on Dee Caffari’s Volvo 65
Turn The Tide On Plastic, but unfortunately an injury in the recent International Moth Worlds (in which she was top woman) has side-lined her for a while, but she may be aboard post-Fastnet.

Also up among the biggies, Irish interest will be intense for the foiling IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, where new Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” Nin O’Leary is teaming up as joint skipper with seasoned campaigner Alex Thompson. O’Leary has sailed on Hugo Boss before, but the Fastnet is a case of going in at the deep end, as their main rivals at the big boat end of a two-part 69-strong two-handed division will be the legendary Jeanne-Pierre Dick and three-times Figaro winner Yann Elies in the foiling IMOCA 60 St Michel-Virbac.

hugo boss7Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a manta ray….? Hugo Boss will be raced by Alex Thompson and Nin O’Leary

stmichel virbac8Jeanne-Piere Dick’s StMichel-Virbac is likely to be Hugo Boss’s closest opponent

The Fastnet fleet is like an awesome mountain range - it’s easy enough to discern the major peaks, but it’s only as you descend into the smaller mountains and the foothills that you feel some sense of identity and fellow-feeling with what’s around you, and for true aficionados, the IRC corrected time winners in class and overall is the real Rolex Fastnet Race.

Thus the main topic this year is can the French make it three in a row. And even better, can the incredible JPK marque from Lorient make it three in a row?

Back in 2013, the unthinkable happened. The overall winner was the French JPK 10.10 Night and Day, raced in the Two-Handed division by father-and-son crew Pascal and Alexis Loison. For those of us who can just about rub along with family on a boat, and prefer to be fully crewed, it took some time to get used to the idea of Night and Day’s superb win.

Then by 2015, JPK’s new design, the JPK 10.80, was starting to make waves, and went on to win the Rolex Fastnet Race overall in the form of veteran Gery Trentesaux’s Courrier du Leon. Just to show it was no flash in the pan, a sister-ship – also skippered by Trentesaux – won her class in the next Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, and now in 2017 Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI has won the Volvo Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race overall in June while in July another sister-ship, Yes! skippered by Nin O’Leary, won the big-fleet Round the Island by an unusually wide margin.

Courrier du Leon9The JPK 10.80 Courrier du Leon (Gery Trentesaux) winning the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015

So these are still the boats to beat. But as we’ve learned in Irish offshore racing, a well-sailed J/109 can sometimes get the better of them, so although she’s not strictly Irish, we reckon that the J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox from Pwllheli) is Honorary Irish, and she’s very much in the lineup for tomorrow’s start, as is the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi skippered by Kenneth Rumball, which is in both the Open Division and in the racing for the Roger Justice Trophy for sailing schools.

This is hotly contested with more than 30 offshore sailing and racing schools involved, and in 2015 it was won by Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire with Ronan O Siochru skippering the Sunfast 37 Desert Star. IOS is back this year with Desert Star, and while a fine camaraderie had built up among her crew, the rules for participation as a sailing school means you have to carry a significant proportion of first timers, thus two of Desert Star’s crew from 2015, Louise Gray and Jacques Diedricks, have transferred to another non-school Dun Laoghaire-based Fastnet contender, Brendan Couglan’s Sunfast 37 Windshift.

boyd and osiochru10At the prize-giving in Plymouth, RORC Commodore Michael Boyd presents Ronan O Siochru with the Roger Justice Trophy for the best-placed sailing school entry in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015. Boyd himself had won the Gull Salver for the top-placed Irish boat.
Irish Offshore Sailing and Irish International Sailing School have of course competed against each other before, in last year’s Volvo Round Ireland, when INSS did best winning the schools division and placing tenth overall. But that was in the Reflex 38 Lynx. The more recently-acquired J/109 gives a new perspective, but here too the rules about having a certain proportion of trainees in your crew have affected personnel selection, and Kenneth Rumball has been unable to take his right-hand man from the 2016 Round Ireland win, Luke Malcolm, who has transferred to Paul Egan’s Dun Laoghaire-based First 35 Platinum Blonde to gain his Fastnet spurs.

jedi leading11The Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi ahead of the pack in the ISORA Lyver Trophy Race, part of the buildup in the training towards the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017

Some additions and insights into the eleven Irish Fastnet entries listed in Afloat.ie are intriguing. For instance, Alan Hannon’s Reichel Pugh 45 Katsu was a very attractive participant in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race, and a closer look at the RORC’s list shows her as skippered by Richie Fearon of Lough Swilly Yacht Club, who navigated the overall winner Tanit in the 2014 Round Ireland, and has formidable international connections which could see Katsu racing with a stellar crew.

Of similar size but with a rating of only 1.096 compared to Katsu’s stratospheric 1.240, the First 44.7 Lisa is skippered by our own Michael Boyd, Commodore RORC. Not only is he defending Irish champion in the Fastnet as he won the Gull Salver with Quokka in 2015, but this year he has been doing mighty well, winning overall in the RORC’s Morgan Cup Race in June.

Another sensibly-rated boat to watch is Harry Heijst’s veteran Winsome, an alloy early version of the Swan 41, built 1972. Though Winsome is proudly Dutch (sail number is NED 118), she’s something of a star in the Solent, and is different from the slightly later GRP Swan 41 with a cockpit/bridge-deck arrangement which many owners of standard Swans of a certain size and vintage would dearly like to emulate, as it greatly improves the boat’s cockpit ergonomics and companionway access. If this is what you want, lads, get out the chainsaw……

winsome laura12Laura Dillon helming the vintage Swan 41 Winsome at the current Cowes Week. Although Winsome’s alloy hull is similar to a Swan 41, her cockpit/companionway/cabintop arrangement is a considerable improvement

The competitive Winsome’s hull has stayed exactly the same, which means she retains all the rating advantages of her age, and clocks in at just 0.990. This makes her very competitive indeed, particularly in a breeze, but only if you have the right person on the wheel. And for some years now that right person has been Howth ex-Pat sailing star Laura Dillon, a former Helmsmans Champion who is now London-based and the extremely effective regular driver on Winsome when she’s not away on some other sailing campaign.

Winsome has been making hay in this windy Cowes Week, and at the time of writing was leading her class well clear, and only rivalled for Boat of the Week in all classes by another veteran yacht with strong Fingal connections, the superbly tuned and sailed 1939-vintage Whooper of Giovanni Belgrano at the top of Class 6. In another life, Whooper used to be the Star of Skerries, owned by Christy and Joe Fox and based at Skerries in North Fingal.

But while Whooper isn’t down to do the Fastnet Race as her owner is probably doing it in his day job as a top professional, Winsome most definitely is. And with the forecast of early brisk breezes and lots of beating, she might be one to watch if she can stay ahead of the lightening breezes which may occur later next week.

silver shamrock13They may not make sterns like that any more, but after 41 years the 1976 Half Ton World Champion Silver Shamrock is still going strong, and she’s the smallest boat entered in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017

Another one to watch, this time for old sake’s sake, is the smallest boat in the fleet, Stuart Greenfield’s 30ft Silver Shamrock. This is the Ron Holland-designed boat with which Harry Cudmore won the Half Ton Worlds in Trieste in 1976. That’s all of forty-one years ago now, yet little Silver Shamrock is still going strong, and with the Half Ton Classics coming up at Kinsale in a dozen days’ time, we can salute Silver Shamrock and feel a sense of identity with her.

This isn’t a feeling aroused by contemplating the biggest boat which has ever raced in the Fastnet, this year’s monster, the 115ft Nikata. An absurdly large vessel. At race’s end, you’d only know a quarter of the crew. And even she’ll be eclipsed if the 130ft trimaran Spindrift 2 – currently not listed as an entry – somehow manifests herself on Sunday heading down Solent. Will there be room for the two of them?

yacht nikita14The crew will just have to wear name tags…..the 115ft Nikita is the largest mono-hull in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017

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As offshore sailors gather momentum for a new Olympic offshore discipline, the world's largest yacht manufacturer has unveiled the first images of a radical new one-design Figaro 3 with foils.

In the new Figaro 3, Groupe Beneteau is producing the first series-built production monohull with foils leaving no doubt that foiling is making it into mainstream sailing

The foils will make the new boat up to 15 per cent faster than its predecessor and are designed to replace the traditional weighty ballast tanks used on past Figaro models.

Described as ‘asymmetric tip foils’ they work by creating side force to supplement the keel and reduce leeway while causing minimal drag. An important factor is also that they are able to retract within the boat’s maximum beam.

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Page 9 of 32

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

Featured Sailing School

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Howth Yacht Club
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