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The world of sailing has so many sectors of interest that it’s challenging keeping track of the general picture. But even when you’ve achieved that basic level of comprehension, you then discover that each sector has so many sub-sectors that it all slips back into confusion. Once upon a time, W M Nixon though he’d a handle on the world of offshore racing. Now, he’s not so sure.

It’s all Tom Dolan’s fault. Most of you will know Tom as the farmboy from Meath who is cutting a remarkable swathe through the world of French Minitransat racing. Last week his name was back up in lights yet again after taking third in a fleet of 52 Minitransat boats in the 300-mile Pornichet Selector, which had these mighty atoms pinging up and down along France’s Biscay coast, with our man being overall leader at two stages.

He’s our Meath man now rather than a Meath farmboy, as he turned 30 on April 27th just after the race had finished. But he still has total boyish enthusiasm for the whole business, allied to a dogged yet adult dedication which is at such a level that it puts him on a different planet from most of the rest of us.

The plan for today was a quick look at Tom and what he’s doing as part of a general overview of the gradual regeneration of offshore racing and its various new areas of rapid development. But the problem is that, once you’ve sensed Tom’s enthusiasm and grasped just how utterly off the wall is his way of life, it takes over the whole show. So we’ll allow it to do so after a quick overview of the general scene.

And where better than to start with a quote from another man from Meath? We’ll always cherish the headline from The Meath Chronicle, when news of a certain sailing event in 1996 percolated through to the editorial headquarters of that esteemed journal in Navan:

LOBINSTOWN MAN WINS ROUND IRELAND YACHT RACE. That’s what it said. Real fame at last. Those of us who have a vague idea of Lobinstown’s location up near Nobber would have guessed it to be in Louth or even Monaghan. But not so, it’s clear over the border, into the Royal County and Meath Chronicle territory, and the Lobinstown man was Michael Boyd, who’d just knocked off the overall win in the big one with his J/35 Big Ears.

michael boyd big ears2It’s 1996, and Michael Boyd’s J/35 Big Ears has just won Wicklow’s Round Ireland Race while her skipper (right) has become one of the earliest Afloat “Sailors of the Month”

For that, he was our “Sailor of the Month” in the inaugural year of the contest, when we began to learn that monthly achievements, clearly highlighted at the time, amount to a very useful quick-reference history of Irish sailing years later. For the record, back in 1996 Big Ears was skippered by Michael Boyd with Jamie Boag (then 25) on navigation, tactics and alternate watch leader, Patsy Burke was relief helm and bowman, Brian Mehigan was bowman, ship’s doctor and cook, trimming team were P J Kennedy, David McHugh, Tim Greenwood and Michael Moloney, and Niall Dowling of the RIYC prepared the boat for the race.

Michael Boyd’s “Sailor of the Month” write-up also told us he’d done the Sydney-Hobart in 1993, the Newport-Bermuda in 1994, and the Fastnet in 1995, so with the Round Ireland won in 1996, you’d think that might be mission accomplished. But things were only getting going, and twenty years later he was back again – after much offshore racing since including being a winning co-skipper in the Irish Commodore’s Cup Team of 2014 – to race as Commodore Royal Ocean Racing Club in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race, skippering the First 44.7 Lisa in which he was to finish third overall, and best Irish boat.

lisa round ireland 163The First 44.7 Lisa at the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016

theo michael boyd4Race organiser Theo Phelan around midnight in Wicklow with Michael Boyd when the latter had just finished the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 to place third overall.

Since then he has linked up with the JPK 10.80 Audrey for racing in Ireland, but he continues to make the scene with the core RORC programme in the English Channel with the First 44.7 Lisa, and last weekend he was one of a goodly fleet in the seasonal opener, the Cervantes Trophy from Cowes to Le Havre, with a very strong French contingent taking part.

0ne of them, the J/133 Pintia skippered by top French sailor Bruno Trouble, won overall from a fleet which reflected the fact that IRC continues to give very good racing for boats of all sizes, types and – in some cases – quite significant ages, as the J/133 dates from 2006, second by just 6 minutes was the Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan (Paul Kavanagh), third was Noel Racine’s regularly campaigned JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew, and fourth was the veteran Swan 55 yawl Lulotte (Ben Morris).

As for Lisa with Michael Boyd, she’d a good race, coming second to Pintia in Class 2, and ninth overall in a fleet of 84 starters. That looked like a pretty good turnout for the time of year, so Afloat.ie tracked down the Commodore of the RORC during the week to see did he share our feeling that there really is a new buzz to the offshore scene, and he responded with enthusiasm:

“Our sport seems to be in rude health these days, with much positive news to report. A Rolex Fastnet Race year always brings out many boats for the summer season. In last weekend’s Cervantes Race, RORC welcomed 84 starters, twice the 2016 figure, and 78 of them made it to Le Havre, more than four times last year’s number when a shocking squall had quite an impact.

Particularly gratifying are marked increases in women and young people taking part. And at home, the numbers are up for the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race, and ISORA’s revival is a source of continuing joy. Long may it continue!”
-Michael Boyd, May 4th 2017

cervantes trophy5Last weekend’s RORC Cervantes Trophy Race from Cowes to le Havre attracted 84 starters – double the 2016 entry – and Lisa placed second in Class 2 and 9th overall. Photo RORC/Rick Tomlinson

In such a mood of goodwill, Afloat.ie didn’t delve too deeply into other interesting developments within the energetic RORC machine, where Dr Jason Smithwick – who has an impressive background in academia, the research industry, and international sailing administration - will be taking over the key role in administering the IRC. Nor indeed did we enquire further into last week’s rumour that our own Marcus Hutchinson is quietly working behind the scenes to bring about a rapprochement between the IRC and the ORC. Because the fact is, the season is upon us, and for the next three months, the business of racing is top of the agenda.

In the Irish Sea it has been at the top since April 22nd, when ISORA’s opening day saw season-starting coastal races on both sides of the Channel, with the Irish side doing best in turnout, 22 boats starting at Dun Laoghaire and finishing at Wicklow, with Andrew Algeo’s J/109 Juggerknot taking the honours.

It’s thanks to the dogged enthusiasm of people like Stephen Tudor in Pwllheli and Peter Ryan in Dun Laoghaire that ISORA has been kept going to be ready and waiting for the renewed interest in offshore racing. This new enthusiasm stems in part from a reaction against the pattern developing the major cruiser-racer regattas, where some race officers pride themselves on fitting in two or even three races in a day.

For those of the offshore racing frame of mind, one or two starts in a week is quite enough, thank you, and they like their races to take long enough to settle down and develop a character of their own. The feeling among such folk is that modern life ashore is often a case of trying to cram as many starts as possible into each day, and they only find genuine relaxation in an alternative challenge which is taken in a very different kind of time frame.

That – more or less – is the explanation given recently by someone who has succumbed to the charm of the modern ISORA programme, which has become so user-friendly that it even includes Howth’s Lambay Race on June 3rd. Admittedly it has a slightly lower points rating of 0.9, but with 35 miles to be sailed by the big boat classes, it is indeed a miniature offshore race, and one which at times give the taste of the sport at its best in terms of amateur enjoyment and a change from the hassles of shore life.

Thus although they’re both under the broad umbrella of offshore racing, there really could be no greater contrast than that between the sailing of your average ISORA enthusiast, and the sailing of Tom Dolan on the Minitransat circuit.

Growing up on a little farm beyond Kells in County Meath, one day Tom and his father got the notion of going sailing on the picturesque Lough Ramor just up the road, so they bought themselves a sailing boat of sorts in County Roscommon and – self-taught – they did indeed find that sailing had something for them.

lough ramor6A long way from Concarneau.....Tom Dolan first discovered sailing on Lough Ramor.

Even though the urge lay dormant in young Tom for his school years in Mullingar when Gaelic football and soccer took over his life, it was when he was 19 and at the outdoor activities education establishment Colaiste Dhulaigh, which is spread over four locations in Dublin and Malahide, that the sailing bug emerged again with an introduction to Glenans in Baltimore, and this time he was hooked for real.

Not only was he a natural sailor who was avid to learn more, but he proved to be a brilliant coach. There were others who realized that Tom Dolan was putting even more into sailing than he was taking out of it, and firm friendships were made, none firmer than that with Gerry Jones, who continues to live in Ireland where he has a busy working life. But he also acts as a voluntary agent for Tom, who in 2009 began to get involved in the sailing scene in France, and has steadily increased that involvement until he is now a leading figure in the Ministransat 650 programme.

It is by no means a gilded path he has chosen. Thirty million people in France may be closely interested in sailing, and they’ll take you to their Gallic hearts as you become part of their sailing scene. But the only sailing the Irish general public take much real interest in is the Olympics, and that’s when a medal may be in prospect. So an Irish rookie with very limited resources trying to get on the ladder in France – which is the only real ladder for high level offshore racing – has several mountains to climb.

But he knew what had to be done, and he knew how he could do it, for by this time he was being drawn into the 10-boat Minitransat community in Concarneau, which is well established as the CEMC (Centre d’Entrainement Mini de Concarneau). It sounds rather grand, but every cent has to be counted, and all involved are constantly looking for ways to increase income, maximise the boat’s performance, train and train again, and race.

cemc flotilla8Members of the CEMC group at Concarneau, Tom Dolan on left

cemc flotilla8The Minitransat 650s of CEMC at Concarneau – Tom Dolan’s Pogo 650 Mark 3 (new in 2016) is number 910

It’s worth it, as they have the great Gildas Mahe as coach, and last year every major race was won by one of the Concarneau group, including a victory for Tom himself. But getting to this level involved making a living doing deliveries and anything else involving high seas expertise, and using a borrowed Pogo 2 for his inaugural full season in 2015.

The Pogo 650 started life in 1995, and she’s now into Mark 3, one of the mainstays of the entire Minitransat scene. By 2015, the Mark 2 was off the pace, but Tom Dolan stuck at it to gain experience, and it was his father, with whom he’d shared those first sailing moments on Lough Ramor so many years ago, who made it possible to move on. For on his death in 2011, while the family farm was kept, he left Tom a modest legacy, and young Tom decided to blow the lot on getting involved with his own boat, and placed an order for the most basic available version of the Pogo 650 Mark 3.

work on pogo9Tom getting the keel bulb perfectly faired. Members of CEMC expect to do most of their boat work themselves

work on pogo10Commissioning the new 2016 boat – IRL 910 – basically involved Tom in fully equipping a bare shell.

He had much to do with installing electrics and equipment and just abut everything else from scratch before his new boat was ready to go racing in 2016, but it was well worth it, and by season’s end he was feted in the local press and internationally as “The Flying Irishman”. To keep the show on the road, he and his friend and fellow-skipper Francoise Jambou run their own 650 Training Centre which, with Tom’s brilliant coaching talents, provides a useful stream of income.

But as the sailing level escalates, so do the costs, and he’s very appreciative of sponsorship from home in the shape of Dubarry Ireland and Ding, while the strength of French interest in sailing generally is shown by support from Cellastab, Techniques Voiles, Renostye, Studio des Schizographes and of course his local pub, the Petite Bistro, where he’ll be celebrating the third place in the Pornichet Select 300 tonight, and maybe a toast to success in next Tuesday’s 500 miles race.

francois and tom11Tom Dolan (right) with sailing partner Francois Jambou celebrating victory with the new boat in a two-handed race.

tom and karen12Tom from Meath and Karen from Lyons in Montserrat, where he’d sailed on a delivery voyage

As for what it’s like being Concarneau-based on a year-round basis, even with the camaraderie and constant work and training of the CEMC, the winters can be long enough if you don’t line up a sunny delivery trip now and again. It was after one of these to the Caribbean and Montserrat that Tom met the significant other, Karen from Lyons, so now life back in Concarneau has a certain domesticity to it that was formerly lacking.

That said, domesticity is of a very rationed variety when you’re into sailing at this level, and Tom Dolan’s proposed programme for 2017 shows his level of commitment, and the continuing requirement for a solid sponsorship package, as the countdown to the Minitransat on October 1st at La Rochelle continues.

22nd April: Pornichet 350 Select (placed 3rd out of 52 boats)

May 9th Mini en Mai 500 miles
June 8th Trophee Marie-Agnes Peron
June 18th Mini Fastnet 600 miles (two-handed with Francois Jambou)
July 30th Transgascogne
October 1st Mini Transat (from La Rochelle)

Even as the programme is being implemented. Tom Dolan’s supporters behind the scenes are beavering away to put together a support package which will make the Mini-Transat a properly resourced challenge.

pornichet select13The contemporary French fleet of 52 actively-campaigned Mini 650s is an impressive sight on the starting line.

pornichet select15Getting clear and getting ahead – IRL 910 departs Pornichet

pornichet select15After being in the lead within five miles of the finish of the 300-mile Pornichet Select on April 26th, Tom Dolan in IRL 910 had to be content with third in the fleet of 52 at the finish.

And beyond that? Team Tom Dolan are very interested in the confirmation of a decision which is expected to come from the Mid-Year Meeting of the World Sailing Council which is currently under way in Singapore (from May 5th to May 9th). Before it is the final acceptance of an invitation from the International Olympic Council to World Sailing to propose Showcase Events to be held alongside the Sailing Olympiad 2020 in Tokyo to demonstrate the potential of both kiteboarding and offshore racing to be Olympic events.

For offshore racing, the proposal is already taking shape for a 9-12m totally One-Design boat, to be raced two-handed, the fleet for the Showcase Event at Tokyo being envisaged at 18 to 20 boats. It’s emphasized that this is only a showcase, it’s not real Olympics. But it could be a guide for the future, and we’ve no doubt that if such an event were to be held in 2020 beside the Olympics, the participants would regard it as very much for real.

It’s certainly of considerable interest to Tom Dolan and his team, for they’re very aware that you’re in a different league in Ireland when you’re trying to raise support for an Olympic campaign rather than something which is seen as more of a niche interest.

But quite what your traditional offshore racer, setting off in their favourite ISORA or RORC event, will think of the prospect of their beloved sport being sucked down into the Olympic maelstrom is something else altogether - a topic for another day

Published in W M Nixon

#VOR - Team AkzoNobel’s brand new Volvo Ocean 65 has made the 2,000km journey from Persico Marine in Italy to The Boatyard in Lisbon.

Staff at the state-of-the-art facility, which began work on the rest of the fleet last October, will see that the sole new build will be fully fitted out for the demands of the Volvo Ocean Race just months away.

“This is an exciting project for us,” said Boatyard head Sam Bourne, who added that more than 20 people will be putting in up to 2,000 man hours between now and mid June to ready the boat for the water.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, sailing apparel manufacturer Zhik (available from CH Marine in Ireland) was announced as the official technical clothing partner for the new Team AkzoNobel in the upcoming 13th edition of the round-the-world offshore yachting challenge.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
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August's Rolex Fastnet Race remains on track for a record-sized fleet. Currently 390 boats are entered: 338 competing for the main IRC handicap prize; the remainder racing for their own trophies in the Class40, IMOCA 60, Volvo Ocean 65 and Multihull grand prix classes.

This line-up makes the race the world's largest offshore race in terms of competitor numbers. Its entries are the most diverse, ranging from maxi-multihulls to the world's fastest monohulls, including those that compete in the fully crewed and singlehanded round the world races, to the racer cruisers and cruiser racers that form the majority of the IRC classes.

The fleet is also the most international. At the present tally, boats from 25 nations will be heading west down the Solent from Cowes on start day, Sunday 6th August.

As expected, the largest entry is from the UK with 58% of the fleet, but this means that 42%, or a whopping 164 boats, will have come from overseas.

France has dominated Rolex Fastnet Race results in both the IRC and non-IRC fleets in recent years and once again is back with a vengeance with the second largest entry, representing 13% of the fleet, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland with 7, 5 and 4% respectively.

Several teams will be making the journey from the furthest corners of the globe especially for the Rolex Fastnet Race. One of the most impressive efforts is from the Australian trio. This includes Finnish former Whitbread Round the World Race skipper Ludde Ingvall with his heavily remodelled Rolex Sydney Hobart Race line honours-winning maxi, CQS (ex-Nicorette). In her latest incarnation, this boat has been lengthened to 100ft and is futuristic-looking with a low volume reverse sheer bow, deck wings to increase her shroud base and a Dynamic Stability Systems lateral foil arrangement.

Also from down under, Rupert Henry's Judel-Vrolijk 62, Chinese Whisper will be back on familiar waters: She was previously Sir Peter Ogden's all-black 62ft Mini Maxi, Jethou. She is joined one of the most famous 'classic' maxis, Kialoa II, the elegant 73ft aluminium S&S design, enthusiastically raced by American Jim Kilroy from 1963-1973, when she won both the Transpac and Sydney Hobart races. She is now campaigned by Patrick Broughton.

As usual there are strong entries from the USA led by George David's Rambler 88 and Privateer, Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50 competing a decade on from when Ger O'Rourke's sistership, Chieftain, won overall.

This year's race has its largest ever Asian entry with boats coming from Korea, Japan and China.

In the Class40, Japan's Hiroshi Kitada returns to the UK with his Pogo40 S3, Kiho, having competed in the Transat bakerly and Quebec-St Malo races last year.

From China is Ark323, skippered by Li Yun. This Botin & Carkeek-designed TP52 (ex-Sled/Warpath), in 2015 became mainland China's first entry with an all-Chinese crew in the Rolex Sydney Hobart. The boat is now making the long haul to the UK to compete in another of the internationally renowned 'classic 600 milers'.

Korea's first entry in the Rolex Fastnet Race comes in the form of the GP42 Sonic. Campaigned by Andrew Rho, Sonic has been one of the most competitive teams in Korea's burgeoning big boat racing scene.

Russia is becoming an increasingly major player in international yacht racing and will be fielding at least three entries including Pjotr Lezhnin Racing in the Class40, while in the IRC fleet is Sergei Zhedik's Sunfast 3600 Voyager and Igor Rytov's JPK 10.80 Bogatyr. Rytov competed in the last Rolex Fastnet Race as a crewman and, according to the Bogatyr team's Ivan Sharapov "he thought there was room for improvement, so he is doing it again on his own terms with a crew he's selected." Rytov acquired a JPK 10.80 following the victory of Géry Trentesaux's sistership Courrier Du Leon, in the last Rolex Fastnet Race.

Following on from its MOD70 entry in previous years, Oman Sail returns to the Rolex Fastnet Race this time in the Class40 fleet. Once again the crew will be led by French round the world sailor Sidney Gavignet who is spending this season coaching up top Omani sailor Fahad al Hasni in shorthanded offshore racing.

From the eastern Mediterranean, the race has a Turkish entry in Yigit Eroglu's First 35 F35 Express, while following the successful debut with Team Israel in last year's Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, Omer Brand is returning with another Israeli crew, this time aboard Richard Loftus' Swan 65 and long serving competitor, Desperado. Brand and his crew will have to get used to some ancient Desperado traditions such as the black tie dinner at the Fastnet Rock not to mention the team's pet gorilla, Joe Powder.

"It is brilliant to see such a diverse fleet with huge international representation," says RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen."The Rolex Fastnet race is recognised worldwide as one of the most challenging 600 mile offshore races. It combines the tidal challenges of the Channel, with headlands to negotiate on the English South Coast, with open ocean racing in the Celtic Sea going to and from that iconic landmark, the Fastnet lighthouse off southern Ireland. Add to these navigational challenges typically unpredictable English weather which tests the seamanship and stamina of all the crew. This is why serious offshore sailors from all over the world want to take part."

Published in Fastnet

Over 500 yachts are taking part in the 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship. Over 5000 sailors from all over the world will race in the biggest offshore sailing competition in the world. While this year the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race is the showcase event, there are fourteen testing races that make up the championship, and every race has its own coveted prize for the overall winner and for class honours. For 2019 a second Irish race is hoping to be added to the series.

The 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship destinations include the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Virgin Gorda, plus the Spanish island of Lanzarote. There are seven European destinations: Belgium, France, Great Britain, Guernsey, Ireland, Malta, and the Netherlands. Five races are to count for Class Honours and the highest total score will designate the winner Overall racing under IRC.

RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd from Dublin's Royal Irish Yacht Club will be racing Lisa, in IRC One. Owned by Suzi and Nick Jones, the British Bénéteau 47.7 was last year's overall winner with Michael Boyd taking part in a number of races, including the Round Ireland, with the team.

"The RORC Season Points Championship is seriously difficult to win especially in a Rolex Fastnet year when there are many boats and the competition is tough. This year, I have chartered Nick and Suzi Jones’ Lisa and we have put a squad together to take up the challenge and it is going to be hard to win again.” commented Michael Boyd. “This will also be my last season as Commodore of the RORC and I wish to pass on the honour with the club in good health. One of my key goals is to increase the activities of the club internationally. Over a third of our club members are from overseas and we have yachts racing under the club's IRC rating rule all over the world. The Rolex Fastnet Race is one of the great races to win but to win any of the RORC races throughout the championship will a moment to savour.”

Cervantes Trophy Race
Start: 29th April, 2017
Course: Squadron Line, Cowes – Le Havre
Distance: 110-160 miles (Channel Marks may be included).

The first European race of the 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship will be the Cervantes Trophy Race, 100 yachts are expected to start from the Yacht Squadron Line.

Dutch Grand Master, Piet Vroon is back, as skipper of Ker 51, Tonnerre 4, taking another tilt at the championship in IRC Zero. In IRC One, Alan Hannon's RP45, last year's Best Overseas Yacht will be racing. In IRC Two, Michael Boyd's Lisa is the highest rated boat, and sees Gilles Fournier's French J/133 Pintia as one of the teams to beat.

“The Cervantes Trophy is our first race of the season and we will discover how good the competition is.” Commented Gilles Fournier. “We aim to do well in our class, as for the overall, luck is always an important factor. The Rolex Fastnet is attracting a big fleet, so winning our class as we did the last two years will not be easy.”

In IRC Three, a huge variety of yachts will be competing from elegant Swans to lightweight JPKs. With such a diversity in the fleet, the weather will play a crucial part in favouring races for displacement yachts such as Ben Morris's Swan 55 yawl, Lulotte and light weight flyers like Richard Palmer's JPK 10.10 Jangada. The armed forces will do battle in J/109s, the Royal Armoured Corps’ Ajax and the Royal Navy Sailing Association's Jolly Jack Tar are bound to have a close conflict.

Frers 45, Scaramouche will be sailed by the Greig City Academy, to kick off their Rolex Fastnet campaign The school from Harringay, London will become the first State School to enter the Rolex Fastnet Race, if they complete their qualification requirements. Four Sixth Formers have received their RYA Day Skipper qualification and the rest of the crew will be selected after taking their RYA Day Skipper Course. Half of the crew must now race 300 miles to qualify and there are First Aid and Offshore Special Regs Requirements.

Gregg School pupil, Shabazz Patterson, is excited about the chance to race in the Rolex Fastnet:
“It’s a big challenge for us. You have to be alert all the time on deck, everything can be still with no other boats in sight and then there will be a sudden change in the direction of the wind and it all becomes very intense as you tack to change course. We’ll be working in shifts over the four days. You think you won’t sleep between shifts, especially if it’s choppy, but as soon as you get into the berth you fall asleep because you’re just so physically tired.”

Seven Class40s will be racing to Le Havre, including RORC Transatlantic Race winners, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron in Campagne de France. (Arthur Daniels/RORC)
IRC Four is expected to be the largest class racing for the Cervantes Trophy, last year's class winner Noel Racine's French JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew has the highest rating in the class for the Cervantes Trophy. Previous Cervantes Trophy winner, Winsome skippered by Harry Heijst, will be hoping for suitable heavy weather to challenge the lighter displacement yachts. 20 teams will be racing in the gutsy IRC Two Handed Class with a fleet of seven short handed Class40s also entered, including RORC Transatlantic Race winners, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron in Campagne de France.

Speaking on behalf of the Société des Regates du Havre, Christophe La Chevre promises a warm welcome in Le Havre for the finishing teams. “All competing sailors will be very welcome with free dockage for 24 hours. The club will stay open all night on Saturday. I recommend booking a table for Sunday lunch (+33 235 412100 email: [email protected]). The restaurant has a very beautiful view. It is also the 500th birthday of Le Havre City, so there are many things to explore.”

Published in RORC

Royal Irish's Andrew Alego made an impressive ISORA debut yesterday in a tricky light wind race from Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow. The new–to–the Bay, J109 Juggerknot port–tacked a 24–boat fleet in very light airs off the Dun Laoghaire startline.

In yet another impressve performance for the design, J109s took the top four places in the 25–miler. Second was Tim Goodbody's White Mischief also from the Royal Irish Yacht Club and third the Irish National Sailing School's Jedi skippered by Kenny Rumball. 

Light winds prevailed for much of the morning, so it was a slow race that ultimately meant only two–thirds of the Dun Laoghaire fleet finished off Wicklow Sailing Club yesterday afternoon. Eight boats were recorded as 'Did Not Finish'.

The fine turn out of 24 boats at Dun Laoghaire is a reversal of fortunes for the Dublin offshore sailing scene and follows similar lifts in numbers in 2015 and 16. 

ISORA StartWith under a minute to the start, the 23–boat was shy of the Dun Laoghaire line. Race winner Juggerknot is closest and preparing to flip onto port tack for the Burford buoy Photo: Afloat.ie

Back in 2007, the then ISORA Chairman John Rose gave notice to nine clubs on both sides of the Irish sea that November's agm would be the last citing a "lack of interest".

Juggerknot ISORANew ISORA entrant – Juggerknot from the Royal Irish Yacht Club

A decade later, thanks to efforts to rekindle the offshore fleet on both sides of the Irish Sea, yesterday's first race of the 2017 calendar amassed a buoyant fleet of 37 with 13 boats racing simultaneously from Pwllheli in North Wales. It is a satisfying result that ISORA Chief Peter Ryan says he is determined  to build on. 'This size fleet has not been seen in ISORA for many years' he told Afloat.ie

The first race of the Overall ISORA Avery Crest Offshore Championship 2017 was also the first race in the ISORA Viking Marine Coastal Series 2016 and the Royal Alfred Coastal Series 2016. The weather forecast for the race was for little or no wind leaving a very difficult task for the Sailing Committee to set the course.

This first race saw the appearance of some new boats to ISORA. Tim Goodbody’s J109, “White Mischief”, Jonathan Bourke’s J109, “Dear Prudence”, Larry Power’s First 31.7, “Kalamar”, Brian Hett’s Dufour 40, “Oystercatcher”, Andew Algeo’s J109 “ Juggerknot”, Robert Rendell’s XC45, “ Samaton” and Jim Schofield’s Nicholson 32, “Thisbe”. Paul Egan and Colm Buckley have returned to the ISORA fleet with new boats First 35, “Platinum Blonde” and J109, “Indian”. “Jedi” J109 has changed owners and has returned to ISORA with Kenneth Rumball.

With the forecast of 3-7 knots NW veering and decreasing 2-3 knots E and veering later to 3-7 knots S, setting a course that would get most boats finished was always going to be difficult. The Race Committee set the course shortly before the start to: Start in Dun laoghaire – South Burford (S) – North and Finish in Wicklow – a course of 22 miles.

The winds at the start were light north-easterly as the fleet of 24 boats headed off towards the first mark in the south going tide. Fluky winds and conditions at the start made it difficult for many of the boats to get fast off the start line. “Juggerknot” and “Lively Lady” led the fleet that turned out to be a beat or tight fetch to the first mark.

Shortly after rounding the first mark, the boats headed in a run down towards the finish with the south going tide. In the decreasing winds and strong tide rounding the South Burford proved to be difficult and split the fleet. The front bunch led by “Lively Lady” drifted towards Wicklow in the fickle winds.

The winds continued to decrease and shift making progress very slow. While the fleet never stopped, at time it was only the south going tide that provided progress for the fleet. The leading buch also included, “Tsunami”, “Platinum Blonde”, “Jedi”, “Aurelia”, White Mischief”, “Dear Prudence” and “Another Adventure”.

As the wind had veered to the south east and increased slightly at the same time as the tide was turning north, “Juggerknot” crossed the finish line first to take 1st in IRC Overall and Class 1 and 2nd in ISORA ECHO Overall and Class1. “Jedi” too 1st in ISORA ECHO while “Albireo” took Silver Class.

16 of the 24 boats finished and made their way into Wicklow harbour for the usual ISORA après sail get together at WSC, some in time to see the “Munster match”!! Crews gathered in the club and planned their next ISORA adventure.
As the race was tracked using the Avery Crest Trackers, the progress of the race can be re-played using the YB app or on the ISORA website.

The next race is the first offshore on the 13th May from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire. It is hoped that there will be another large combined fleet taking part in preparation of the D2D race in June and the Fastnet race in August.

Full results here 

ISORA INSS JediThe INSS J109 Jedi, the only boat to set a gennaker from the Dun Laoghaire start was third in the race to Wicklow. Photo: Afloat.ie

Published in ISORA
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An ISORA move to deal with professional sailors racing in its expanding 2017 fleet has been amended just in time for the first race of the season tomorrow.  

Following instructions received at the AGM in December and in keeping with the spirit of ISORA, the offshore body now say that the definition provided by World Sailing for Group 3 has been considered by most of its skippers to be 'overly onerous' and 'potentially detrimental to the growth and advancement of ISORA'.

As a result ISORA has amended its Notice of Race and 'Group 3' sailors are redefined as 'ISORA Group 3'.

Group 3 sailors are persons who are paid to sail on boats competing in an ISORA race (reasonable expenses allowed). 

ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan told Afloat.ie: 'The rule does not eliminate sailmakers or pro–sailors as long as they do not accept payment to race'. 

Ryan added: 'Those paid to race in ISORA, will be accommodated in a class of their own and are not eligible for the main prizes. Pro sailors not paid to race are welcome in ISORA'. 

The rule change met with immediate approval from one pro at least, telling Afloat.ie it was 'a sensible ISORA solution to an ISORA problem'.

But reader Kevin Byrne, commeting on this article on social media, described the move as a 'pointless change'. 'You won't be able to prove they are paid or not', he wrote on Facebook.

Published in ISORA
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2017 ISORA offshore racing on the Irish Sea starts this weekend with two coastal races - one in Ireland and one in Wales and with a bumper fleet of 35+ boats expected on the two start lines.

The Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow race starts at 10am and is organised by the National Yacht Club in conjunction with the Royal Alfred Yacht Club

The Pwllheli Coastal Race, where a fleet of 12 is assembling in the North Wales harbour is one long bay race starting at 1010hrs.

The early forecast is for 14–knot, northerly winds with blue skies, just perfect for sailing.

Both races will be tracked by Yellow brick trackers.

Pwllheli Sailing Club Commodore Eifion Owen is hosting a post race reception. 

This year, as previously reported on Afloat.ie, the ISORA fleet will also race under ECHO handicap.

Published in ISORA

After a disappointing first race of the year last weekend, as Afloat.ie previewed here, Ireland’s Tom Dolan hopes to improve on his performance in the first single–handed race of the Mini 650 circuit.

In offshore racing, 'once the wind has died completely it is too late, you can’t do anything', says Dolan. The trick, he says, 'is to make sure that you stop in the right place' and that when the new wind arrives 'you are the first (or at least not the last) to touch it.' In light conditions it is in the phases of transition that races are lost and won.

This was a lesson that Dolan learned hard last weekend during the first race of the 2017 Mini 650 season. After a strong start the Franco/Irish team on board IRL 910 were in second position when the first shutdown (zone of no wind) arrived. The back of the fleet became the front of the fleet! One more shutdown later and they were not far off last position. “the second one hurt the most, as we were stopped as the boats offshore were at 3/4 knots...”. They managed to work there way back up the fleet, finishing in 18th place.

This Saturday is the first round of the French Offshore Sailing Championship, the Pornichet Select 650 is a 300–mile coastal race around the Islands of the south Breton coat. There will be almost 90 boats on the start line, and almost 60 of them in the production class so the competition will be tough. Dolan’s Concarneau based sparring partner, Pierre Chedville on board the 887 “Blue orange Games” will be a favourite as he returns to defend his title in the production class and yet again it will be Ian Lipinski in his 865 scow “Griffon.fr” who will be the man to beat in the prototype class.

The course takes the fleet from the small port of Pornichet, down to Les Sables d’olonne, across the finish line of the vendee globe before sailing back up to ile de Groix. The largest strategical decision of the race is which side to leave Belle Ile on the return leg. For the time being the weather conditions promise to be light with yet again a strong chance of there being a number of shutdowns. “This time round I will work to better prepare the weather forecast for the race, and be sure not to be the wrong side each time!', Dolan told Afloat.ie

Dolan, who hails from County Meath and is preparing to compete in the 2017 Mini Transat race, a single–handed race across the Atlantic Ocean on the smallest class of Ocean racing boat that there is.

To follow the Select 650 click here

Published in Solo Sailing
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After a very successful tenth ISORA season last year, offshore campaigner Peter Hall from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire decided to relocate his Beneteau First 34.7 and try his hand in warmer climes! Adélie went south last autumn and is now based in Ibiza, and this was the first race of his season.

It is the 30th anniversary of the Ruta de la Sal regatta (Salt Race) and the first time they've had a Salina class in the race - for boats skippered by a female (Mairead Ni Cheallachain in the case of Adelie pictured below with trophy) and with at least 50% female crew (Adelie had Antonia O'Rourke, Louise Dwyer, Susan Delaney, Noel Butler and Sam Hunt as well as Peter and Ni Cheallachain). It's an initiative by the Spanish to try and encourage more female participation in offshore racing. There were seven boats entered in the Salina class (2 x First 40.7, X302, Oceanis 43, Bavaria 50, Sunfast 32 - all Spanish boats).

92 boats overall raced from Denia on the mainland, south around Formentera and then north around the Ibiza coast to a finish in San Antonio, Ibiza - a course of roughly 125nm.

Maired with Salt race trophy

The race took just over 26 hours in starting in beautiful moderate champagne sailing conditions, which overnight fell to very light, leading to some very tactical, technical racing!

In the overall fleet Adelie came 13th of 92 - in her racing class A3 they came 6th of 20 and won the Salina class ahead of the two local 40.7s

Results are here

Published in ISORA

After a winter which included training with Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire, Galway’s Mossie O’Reilly and Paddy Shryane are well into a clockwise Easter circumnavigation of Ireland to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis writes W M Nixon.

Spurred on by the death from CF last summer of their friend Eva Davin aged just 32, the Galway duo are sailing fully-crewed on the INSS’s J/109 Jedi. They aren’t trying to break any sailing records, but instead are doing the classic Round Ireland circuit in a way with which most sailors will identify. This in turn will, they hope, draw attention to the remarkable work being done in Galway University Hospital, where 85 children and adults are receiving treatment for CF.

Even before their venture got under way from Dun Laoghaire in the first minute of Holy Saturday, April 15th, they and their team had already raised €2,545 towards a modest target of €3,000 which we hope will be significantly exceeded by the time fund-raising ends of August 15th 2017. Because the voyage target is simply to get round Ireland, when total calm descended off Kinsale they dropped into port for a few hours until the wind returned.

Published in INSS
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Page 10 of 30

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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